Phelps teams with Aqua Sphere

Irvine - Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps, on a comeback that could take him to the Rio Games, is teaming up with a swimwear manufacturer to develop a line of competitive swimming equipment.

Phelps launched his comeback in April after a 20-month retirement as a "free agent" after his deal with longtime sponsor Speedo expired at the end of 2013.

On Tuesday, as Phelps geared up for Wednesday's start of the US championships in Irvine, California, Aqua Sphere announced that the 18-time Olympic gold medalist and coach Bob Bowman had signed on help develop new products for the company.

It currently designs and manufactures swimwear, wetsuits, eyewear, and accessories for triathletes, open-water, and fitness swimmers.

Phelps said he expects to be competing in a new suit made by the company next January. Such new products must be approved by the world governing body FINA before they can be used in competition.

"They've gone through all the FINA approvals and we're just trying to work on some small things and some sizing things that we found last week when we were working together," said Phelps, who will wear Aqua Sphere goggles and cap at this week's championships.

As for what brand of suit he'll race in for the time being, Phelps declined to say, with Bowman adding the star wasn't sticking with one make.

"He just decides on the day what he's going to wear," Bowman said.

Phelps said this new partnership gave him more input into design than his work with Speedo ever did.

"Bob and I really have never had the joint partnership and being able to have so much input and give so much feedback on some of the small things ... and that is something that excites me," he said.

"Michael Phelps is one of the select global icons in all of sports, while oach Bob Bowman is a true swimming mastermind," Todd Mitchell, business line manager for Aqua Sphere said in a statement.

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