Michael Phelps takes in Athens

semerson@macon.comJuly 11, 2014 

ATHENS - The winningest athlete in Olympic history has been walking the streets of Athens this week, and meeting some frat boys in the process.

Michael Phelps is the biggest of many big names participating at UGA's swimming center in the Bulldog Grand Slam, a meeting of club teams from around the country. Phelps, who owns 22 career medals, 18 of them gold, is working his way back towards the 2016 Olympics, after temporarily retiring two years ago.

On Friday Phelps defeated Ryan Lochte - the second-winningest American swimmer at the 2012 London Olympics - in the 100-meter butterfly. Phelps had a time of 51.67, his best of the year in that event, and the third-best in the world this year.

"Retirement's pretty boring," said Phelps, who is in his fourth event since un-retiring. ""It's good to have some kind of structure in my life."

Phelps took in Athens on Thursday night, escorted by UGA grad and fellow Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt. Phelps ate dinner Thursday night at Last Resort, one of Athens' notable restaurants. They also got some frozen yogurt.

Not many people recognized Phelps, who is sporting a beard these days. The exception was a group of young partygoers at a hotel elevator.

"I was getting off the elevator to come over, and literally 10 of them with cases of beer just pile into the elevator," Phelps said. "I was waiting to get out, and I'm like, Yeah, come on in guys. No problem. They recognized me when I was coming off."

Phelps is well-acquainted with the UGA swimming program: He's friends and swim club teammates with Schmitt, UGA swimmer Chase Kalisz (a fellow Marylander), and swimming coach Jack Bauerle was a coach during the 2000 Olympics. Phelps was 15 at the time.

"I've known Jack for a long time," Phelps said.

Phelps' appearance drew a packed house at UGA's Ramsey Center, with every seat taken during Friday's evening session.

“This is probably one of the top five swimming pools in the country,” Lochte said. “I love the atmosphere and the fans. This is perfect.”

"It's always awesome seeing the stands as they are, every seat taken," Phelps said. "Allison said it wasn't this packed when she was here at SECs. It's cool to have people come out and support us and cheer us on."

Phelps is set to race in the 100 backstroke on Saturday and the 100 freestyle on Sunday.

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