Phelps keen to challenge Thorpe

American teenager Michael Phelps said he was keen to challenge Ian Thorpe — in the Australian's pet events, the 200 and 400 metres freestyle — in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Massomiliano Rosolini of Italy, Michael Phelps of the USA, and Ian Thorpe of Australia, after the 200m individual medley finals in the World swimming championships 2003 in Barcelona, Spain. Phelps took the gold with a world record time of 1:56.04, followed by Thorpe who took the silver. Rosolini won the bronze. — Pic. SHAUN BOTTERILL/GETTY IMAGES-

Thorpe, 20, is the world record holder in both events but Phelps was the most astonishing performer at the July World championships in Barcelona, claiming five world records.

"I'm a big racer and I want to race the best. I don't think there's really anybody else better to race than him," Phelps said.

The 18-year-old from Baltimore set world records in the 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley (two), 100 butterfly and 400 individual medley. Phelps claimed victories in all but the 100 butterfly, where fellow American Ian Crocker won the title and the world mark. Phelps said he had only met Thorpe once in the pool, when the American beat Thorpe in the 200 metres individual medley in Barcelona. Thorpe won the 200 and 400 freestyle.

Phelps, who is ranked second in the 200, and third in the 400 freestyle, behind Thorpe, said he would be guided by his performances at next year's U.S. Olympic trials.

"If the time is right and I'm prepared to swim the 400 and the 200 then that's what we'll go with," Phelps said. "Ian has been extremely dominant since Sydney (where the Australian won 400 freestyle before winning a record six titles at the 2001 Fukuoka world championships).

"He is on a pedestal and I guess there are a few of us who are chasing him. In the past there hasn't really been anyone to compete with him in the 200 and the 400. Being compared to him, it's an unreal experience."

Phelps will compete in the World Cup short-course meet in Melbourne from November 28 to 30 and a skins event in Sydney on November 26.

The American said he was keen to try to equal countryman Mark Spitz's feat of seven gold medals at a single Olympics. Spitz set four world records at the 1972 Munich Games on his way to seven gold medals.

"I'm going to be worn down. I'm just worried about taking one event at a time and trying to recover in between races and I think this summer I did a fairly good job at that," Phelps said.