Swimming: 'Duel in the Pool' attracts Phelps to Manchester meet

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The Independent Online

Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time, will compete in Britain for the first time in December in a Ryder Cup-style "Duel in the Pool" event pitting some of Europe's best swimmers, including Britain's Rebecca Adlington, against America.

As The Independent revealed in March, when the event was being planned in secret, the United States will bring a full-strength team of 36 athletes (18 men, 18 women), headed by Phelps, 24, who won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics to add to the six he won in Athens in 2004.

A "European select team" will be made up of six men and six women from each of Britain, Italy and Germany. The British Gas Duel in the Pool will be staged at the Manchester Aquatics Centre on Friday and Saturday 19-20 December.

The programme will include 13 men's events and 13 women's events, plus two relays each for the men and women. Points will be awarded per podium place and the winners will be the team with the most points. It will be a short-course meet (25m), with "finals" only, and the whole event will be screened live by the BBC. Any one swimmer can enter up to six events, relays included.

Adlington, who won gold medals in the 400m and 800m freestyle events in Beijing, said: "Following the success of the world short-course championships last year, it's great that the British public will have another opportunity to watch a world-class swimming event in Manchester this December.

"It's been an outstanding year for British swimming with a best ever medal haul at the world championships in Rome and it seems only fitting to finish the year on a high with the greatest talent Europe and the USA have to offer going head-to-head.

"To be able to watch the cream from Britain, Italy and Germany race the best of the United States, including Michael Phelps in the UK for the first time, is an amazing opportunity."

David Sparkes, the chief executive of British Swimming, added: "We expect to host a very strong USA team packed full of megastars. Alongside our own Becky Adlington, Liam Tancock [50m backstroke world champion], Gemma Spofforth [100m backstroke world champion] and Jo Jackson [three-time medalist in Rome], we will also welcome some of Europe's greatest swimmers to bring to Manchester the best swimming it's ever seen in a head-to-head challenge."