January 14, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Swimming coach Bob Bowman recalled a day in 1999 when 14-year-old Michael Phelps was so pleased with his performance at a meet in Orlando that he skipped down a hotel hallway wearing only tennis shoes and a skimpy Speedo.

''When Michael was younger, you never saw anybody love swimming the way he loved swimming,'' Bowman said Thursday on the eve of an Arena Pro Swim Series three-day meet in Austin. ''Nobody loved anything the way he loved swimming. He's kind of got that back.''

Bowman would get no argument from Phelps. More than a year after undergoing alcohol rehab treatment, Phelps has a fiancee Nicole Johnson - due to have a baby boy in May - and a rekindled love of swimming as he prepares for his fifth and final Olympics in Rio this summer.

''I am in a lot happier place than I've ever been,'' Phelps said. ''My life as a whole is a lot better.''

The 30-year-old Phelps has won 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold. He won eight medals in 2008, four in 2012 and then retired for nearly two years. Phelps was fairly miserable during the 2012 Olympics in London, swimming more out of obligation than joy, a feeling he is determined to avoid now.

''I didn't want it to be like 2012 when I was kind of kicking and screaming,'' Phelps said. ''I wanted to come back and enjoy this.''

Phelps fell in love with swimming again after a low point in his life, a DUI arrest in 2014. Phelps spent 45 days at a treatment facility. When he left, Phelps had a relationship with his once estranged father, Fred, who attended Family Week at the facility, and a determination to finish his career strongly.

There was a time, before the 2012 Olympics, when Phelps often skipped practice. Now he doesn't miss, working with Bowman in Arizona.

''It's amazing what happens when you show up to practice,'' said Bowman, who recently took over the Arizona State swimming program.

Phelps set world bests for 2015 in the 100 and 200 meter butterfly and the 200 IM.

''My swimming is probably better than it's been since 2008,'' Phelps said.

Phelps is among nine 2012 U.S. Olympic individual gold medalists at the meet, joining Nathan Adrian, Tyler Clary, Missy Franklin, Matt Grevers, Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte, Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer.

The 20-year-old Franklin won four golds in London and six a year later at the world championships. Then she hit a slump in 2014 and 2015 from which she recently emerged.

She's scheduled to compete here against Ledecky in the 100 and 200 freestyle. The versatile Ledecky was gold medalist in the 800 freestyle in London.

The 18-year-old Ledecky said she is not thinking much about the competition.

''Obviously, I know there are a lot of fast swimmers here, and I'm excited to race them all,'' Ledecky said. ''But at the same time, I have to focus on what I want to work on some technical things I've worked on the last couple of months.''

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