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Photographers follow as Phelps arrives

ROME -- Two Chinese swimmers stood and stared in awe. Photographers snapped away.

Michael Phelps arrived in Rome for the world championships Thursday for his first swim in the Foro Italico pool.

"He did his normal thing we would do after a trip. He did a little bit of fast swimming and it looked pretty good," said Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman. "It's a beautiful venue and we're looking forward to it."

Phelps will swim only three individual events in Rome -- the 200 freestyle, and 100 and 200 butterfly -- plus all three relays. At this month's U.S. championships, he set a world record in the 100 butterfly, although he pulled out of the 100 free with a sore neck.

"I think things are looking pretty good, so we'll see how it goes," Bowman said.

Phelps, the winner of a record eight gold medals at last summer's Olympics, wore a blue cap, designer sunglasses and headphones. Once on the pool deck, he wrapped a towel around himself and changed into a brief black and green swimsuit, then dove in without a cap.

Photographers followed his every stroke, particularly when Phelps stopped to embrace Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice. Rice won three gold medals in Beijing's Water Cube.

"I've talked with him about how he handles the media," she said. "I'm grateful to be able to talk about that with him, knowing my mental ups and down from things like that and sort of him seeming so calm about it all. It's good to learn how he handles that pressure and really just focusing on what's important and just letting that other stuff go behind you."

Phelps and the rest of the U.S. squad trained in Riccione on Italy's Adriatic coast for the last week before taking a short flight to Rome.

"Training in Riccione was great," Bowman said. "Where we stayed was great. Everything couldn't have been better."