By Greg Stutchbury
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Michael Phelps is eagerly anticipating a showdown with Ian Thorpe at next year's London Olympics, should the Australian choose to race the men's 200 meters freestyle and set up another 'Race of the Century'.
Thorpe has returned to the pool after quitting competition in 2006 and is targeting next year's London Olympics -- where he is expected to concentrate on three events, the 200 freestyle and the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle relays.
Phelps and Thorpe, along with Pieter van den Hoogenband provided a memorable showdown in the 200 freestyle at the Athens Olympics in 2004, which was dubbed the 'Race of the Century' and Phelps insists another showdown in London could be just as exciting.
"The 200 free has turned into a fun event," Phelps told a small gathering of reporters in Shanghai, a day after the world swimming championships ended.
"Just being able to have the chance to swim in a race with Thorpe again is something I will be looking forward to.
"I've only had two races with him in my career and being able to have him back in the pool will be exciting for the sport."
Phelps, the most successful Olympian ever who won an unprecedented eight gold medals in Beijing, finished second behind compatriot Ryan Lochte in the 200 freestyle at Shanghai but it was the closeness of the finish that had him excited.
"Having five guys go under 1:45 was pretty impressive," he added referring to Lochte, himself, Park Tae-hwan, Paul Biedermann and Yannick Agnel all touching within 0.55 seconds of each other, with Agnel fifth in 1:44.99.
"The rest of the world is swimming faster and I think we will be pretty excited for next year."
Phelps had said before the championships began that he was using the meeting in Shanghai to ascertain "where he was at" before he begins his preparations for his final Olympics in London.
He finished with four gold medals, two silvers and a bronze but also with a feeling of frustration.
"I always set high goals," he said at an event where he was named as a new global ambassador for the Special Olympics.
"It's frustrating. I'm fairly satisfied but at the end of the day it's hard for me to be totally satisfied.
"I know I can go faster, I can go a lot faster I think."
Phelps said he would probably stick to the same program he swum in Shanghai, the 100 and 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley, 200 freestyle and three relays next year in London.
"I'm fairly comfortable with the event schedule. I'll see how it pans out over the next eight to 10 months before the selection trials.
"Having what happened here is going to make this year even better. Training wise, preparation wise and I think the biggest thing here is building on the confidence I have.
"I think with everything, with warm ups, warm downs, races it was 40,000 meters and it was a fairly intense week.
"I think I was able to see how my body can handle it now but I just have to make the next step to deal with it and swim as fast as I want to swim."
(Editing by Ossian Shine)