Spitz backs Phelps for gold

Cape Town - American swimming legend Mark Spitz believes Michael Phelps will once again set the Olympic stage alight in what is likely to be his final Games in Rio de Janeiro this time around.

Spitz, who had his record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics broken by Phelps' eight in the 2008 games, says he expects Phelps to make light of his advancing age in the pool at Rio

"I think so. Several... I think Michael is going to do great," said Spitz, when asked if Phelps would win any golds at this year's Olympics.

At the US trials in July, Phelps won the 100 and 200m butterfly as well as the 200 medley, but not with the kinds of form that would make people sit up and take notice.

"I think that he was not fully rested at the Olympic trials, I think that this is his swan song if you may and he's going to make every single stroke count," said the 66-year-old, who was meeting American athletes at their picturesque training base on the Rio coast.

"I would never bet against him and I hope that he'll have a positive result. If he makes the finals, he's the one to beat."

Although Phelps achievements mean he is consistently in the spotlight, Katie Ledecky is poised to be the big star of the US team, where she is expected to dominate in the pool once again.

"The women are going to do well with Katie Ledecky, everybody's got their hopes pinned on that she'll win the 200, 400 and 800 free(style)," said Spitz.

"She's got the fastest times in the world right now and she's the person to beat. She's going to set the standard right now for the women's swimming."

Spitz's legendary achievement of seven gold medals in the 1972 Munich Olympics was considered unbeatable for 36 years, until Phelps proved them wrong.

But Spitz said he never grasped the gravity of his achievement until Phelps one upped him in Beijing.

"Somebody asked me the other day, 'When did you realise you were so great?' I said, 'The day Michael Phelps broke my record,'" said Spitz while addressing the athletes.

"I think we're going to do really well."

"But there's a lot of great swimmers coming from South Africa, Germany, Japan, Australia."

Spitz is referring to South African Chad le Clos, who stunned the swimming world by defeating Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 Games, and will be looking to beat the US flag barrier.

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