Michael Phelps

Card tricks and black eyes: Our Golden Goggles recap

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NEW YORK – It was a magical night at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards Monday night, the organization’s annual gala that recognizes the top performances of the year.

The usual suspects were in attendance – Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and a whole lot more. There were also a few non-swimmers in the audience and on the stage to present awards – Donald Trump was the one who stood out the most. And there was magician and endurance artist David Blaine.

Backstage after the awards were all given out, Blaine stole the show.

The guy who has willingly been encased in ice for more than 63 hours, held his breath for more than 17 minutes and, most recently, was hit with one million volts of electricity for 72 hours straight, was up to his old habits at New York City’s Marriott Marquis – card tricks. He started off by doing an elaborate trick with Phelps that lasted a good four or five minutes. Phelps was completely floored when the card he was thinking off ended up written on a sharpie Blaine had handed to him moments earlier.

Then Blaine moved on to Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer and did another trick. Franklin was speechless when a folded up card appeared under her watchband … and again when Blaine made the card change its number and suit in an instant.

“Who are you?” a mystified Franklin asked.

Click here for a complete recap of the night (sneak preview: Phelps and Franklin took home the night’s top awards).

A few other thoughts and observations from the evening:

– It was a no-brainer to start the night by playing the U.S. Olympic swim team’s music video of “Call me Maybe.” It’s still our favorite of the “Call me Maybe” parodies on YouTube.

– Phelps is currently filming episodes of the Haney Project, a Golf Channel reality show that features celebrity golfers trying to become better golfers under the direction of coach Hank Haney. We asked Phelps who is tougher: Haney or his longtime swim coach, Bob Bowman.

“They are exactly the same,” Phelps said. “They have the same amount of passion and they’re just going to force it out of you.”

– We chatted with Jessica Hardy and her fiancé Dominic Meichtry on the red carpet about an unfortunate mishap last week that resulted in Meichtry giving Hardy a black eye. The pair was training together in the pool (Meichtry swims for the Swiss national team) and they collided in the middle of the lane after a miscommunication about whether they were swimming side by side or in a circle pattern. Hardy was left bloodied and with a colorful circle around her eye. “The first thing I said when it happened was, ‘Oh no, the Golden Goggles.’ Hardy was able to apply enough makeup that the mark was invisible.

Ashley Wagner ‘sick’ of hearing about her age

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KANSAS CITY — Ashley Wagner can become the oldest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in 90 years, but it would not be wise to tell her that.

“I think that this sport focuses on age way too much,” the three-time U.S. champion Wagner, 25, said in a press conference after Thursday night’s short program at Sprint Center (recap, videos here). “I’m so sick of hearing about my age. I’m so sick of it guys. If anybody asks me one more question about my age, I’ll just stop talking. It’s ridiculous.”

Wagner placed third in the short program, 1.88 points behind leader Karen Chen, who is 17 years old. She’ll try to surpass Chen in the free skate Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Chen sat in Thursday’s press conference between Wagner and second-place Mirai Nagasu, a 23-year-old who won the U.S. title way back in 2008.

“They’re my role models,” Chen said. “I watched them skate for years and years.”

Wagner then interjected before the next question.

“You just made both of us feel so old,” Wagner said, drawing laughter.

Truth is, Wagner is often asked about her age, her experience, her highs and lows, and answers respectfully and with wisdom. She did again after competing Thursday night for the first time in nearly two months, under the pressure as U.S. Championships favorite.

“I choose to view the word ‘veteran’ as experienced, and experience is never a bad thing, because I’ve gone through the good experiences and the brutally terrible awful experiences,” said Wagner, who last season earned world championships silver, ending a 10-year U.S. women’s drought.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski was surprised to learn Wagner wasn’t particularly interested in questions about her age.

“Age is definitely a factor,” Lipinski said Friday. “You can pretend it’s not, but it is. I tried to pretend that it wasn’t, but it was. It was talked about a lot. I was too young [winning the Olympics at age 15]. Whether it’s the opposite [age] range, age is a factor.”

Wagner competes in a sport where, in other top countries, crops of teens are replaced by the next crop of teens. At last month’s Japanese and Russian Championships, the oldest women’s podium finisher was 18 years old.

Wagner may be past the usual prime years for skaters, but Lipinski pointed out that being (very) young has its disadvantages.

“I felt that I didn’t have a lot to draw on,” said Lipinski, who at 14 became the youngest U.S. women’s champion in 1997. “I didn’t have a lot of outside perspectives. Skating was my life. So any small mistake took me so down, and it was very hard for me to put this sport in perspective.”

Wagner was asked if she worried she may have peaked with that 2016 World Championships silver medal.

“If I peaked,” she said, “I would have retired.”

If Wagner makes the PyeongChang Winter Games, she would become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928. Which would actually be an incredible accomplishment in a teen-dominated sport.

That sort of statistic was probably furthest from her mind in Thursday’s press conference.

“We definitely need a new crop of girls to come in,” Wagner said, cracking a smile, “because I will die one day.”

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating head says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang

How to watch U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2016, file photo, Nathan Chen of the United States, competes in the men's short program at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating final in Marseille, southern France. The 17-year-old's revelatory performance at last month's Grand Prix final in France has made him American figure skating's bright new star. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
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U.S. Figure Skating Championships coverage continues Friday, live on NBCSN, Universal HD and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, starting at 6 p.m. ET.

The short dance and men’s short programs are scheduled in Kansas City.

The NBC Sports All-Access page will provide live scoring and more all week.

Short dance
6-8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
STREAM LINK | SKATE ORDER | PREVIEW

Men’s short program
8:30 p.m.-midnight ET, Universal HD
SKATE ORDER | PREVIEW

In dance, defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani take on two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. They’re heavy favorites for the three world championships berths.

Nathan Chen leads the men’s field, seeking to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966. He faces past champions Jason Brown and Max Aaron with two worlds berths at stake this weekend

The free dance will be Saturday and the men’s free skate Sunday, both on NBC and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang