Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Phelps not counting out comeback; happy to “no longer smell chlorine”

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Despite the rumors from top competitors and men in the know, swimming legend Michael Phelps has yet to dive in a pool competitively since London, and told a German paper Wednesday that he thinks top rival Ryan Lochte is trying to deflect some attention away from himself.

Phelps, of course, says he’s happy with the life of leisure he’s enjoyed since London, and he’s happy to “no longer smell chlorine,” but he still won’t entirely count out a comeback.

“All I can say: I am very happy with my current life, I enjoy my retirement, I enjoy playing golf.” Phelps explained (with some help from Google Translate). “I will be still be seen at the edge of the pool at the World Championships and I will of course watch Rio 2016. Will I come back? I do not know. It is a matter of time. At the moment, I’m happy the way it is.”

Phelps also admitted that his “belly” wasn’t quite the same as when he was training, since he apparently has a sweet tooth, and added that mastering golf was even harder for him than swimming.

“Golf is one of the hardest sports I’ve ever done. It’s still frustrating… I know now what I am doing wrong and what I should change, in theory. I want to be good. Golf is my new challenge.”

Phelps’s golf coach, Hank Haney said Tuesday that Phelps has come a long way since they worked together for a Golf Channel reality show earlier this year, and that he’s confident that the swimmer will do well when he tees off at the American Century Championship Celebrity Pro-Am in Tahoe next month.

“He’s a proven golfer,” Haney told reporters. “When we started our show he was pretty much a beginner, and then he just jumped right out and played in the pro-am for The Ryder Cup…

“I think he’ll hit some good shots. I think he’ll hit some bad shots. But I think overall, I think he’s going to do pretty good. He’s a passionate golfer. It’s just great to have him in the game of golf.”

Eugenie Bouchard makes Olympic decision: ‘I didn’t want to watch on TV’

Eugenie Bouchard
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Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard weighed the risks of the Zika virus and security and decided to play in the Olympics.

“I didn’t want to be sitting at home watching the Olympics on TV,” she said Sunday, calling it a “hard decision.” “Also knowing I might have two or three Olympics in my career, I felt that the decision to go is the right one.”

Last week, the 22-year-old said she would make a “last-minute” decision on whether to play.

“It’s just unfortunate because it would be my first Games, and to have a problem like this [Zika] kind of dampening the excitement of, potentially, your first Olympic Games, it really sucks, to be honest,” Bouchard said then. “It’s something that I haven’t been thinking about. I’m just going to, like, wake up and make a decision.”

Bouchard reached the semifinals of the 2014 Australian Open and 2014 French Open and the 2014 Wimbledon final. She struggled for much of 2015, then suffered a concussion slipping and falling in a locker room at the U.S. Open.

Bouchard is ranked No. 42 in the world. Several other top tennis players have withdrawn from the Olympics for various reasons, including Zika.

MORE: U.S. Olympic tennis team includes 546th-ranked singles player

USA Gymnastics agrees to buy Karolyi Ranch

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The face at the top of U.S. women’s gymnastics will change next month when longtime national team coordinator Martha Karolyi retires following the Summer Olympics.

The address that doubles as the program’s heartbeat will not.

USA Gymnastics has reached an agreement with Karolyi and husband Bela to purchase the training facility the couple owns in Huntsville, Texas. Financial terms were not disclosed, but a closing date of Aug. 24 has been set, just three days after the closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro and five days before Martha Karolyi’s 74th birthday.

“It has everything we could possibly ask for,” USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny told The Associated Press. “Along with what it represents to our heart and soul, as a physical facility, we couldn’t go out and build it. It’s been custom made what for what we want and need. You add up all the elements and it’s like ‘Dang, what an easy decision.'”

The Karolyis established the rustic estate in Sam Houston National Forest about an hour north of Houston in 1983, eventually expanding it to 2,000 acres. USA Gymnastics is buying 36.2 acres, including three training gyms, housing for up to 300 athletes and coaches as well as a dance studio, dining hall, medical and rehab facilities and recreational areas. The facility will also get a new name: the USA Gymnastics Athlete Development Center at the Karolyi Ranch.

The Karolyis will keep their residence, a hunting lodge Bela Karolyi built and the remaining acreage. USA Gymnastics will have right of first refusal if the Karolyis decide in the future to sell off other parcels of land.

The USA Gymnastics board of directors unanimously approved the sale, pointing to the amenities, the location and the unique aspects of the ranch — which includes a vast array of wildlife from camels to peacocks — that have helped turn the women’s national team into an international powerhouse. The five-woman team Karolyi will lead to Brazil next month is heavily favored to back up the team gold medal it won with ease in London four years ago.

“This place has stood the test of time,” Penny said. “There things we have to make sure we do a little bit differently, we have to fix some things. Nothing that is going to require significant work. It’s sturdy. It’s a sturdy place to be.”

Karolyi announced her decision to step down after the Rio Games last summer. The Karolyis are expected to maintain a presence at the ranch, and USA Gymnastics is considering turning an older portion of the main gym — one lined with pictures, medals and trophies from major competitions dating back to the 1980s — into a museum to honor the Karolyi legacy.

“They are still a part of us,” Penny said. “They will always be a part of USA Gymnastics. They’re still both going to play vital roles for us in the future. Martha will always want to drift into the gym and we’ll always want her to do that.”

Bela Karolyi joked the sale means “freedom for him” to do as he pleases on the ranch while his wife of 54 years travels to visit family in her native Romania. Though the deal has been in the works for a while, the formal exchange of power will mark the end of an era. The Karolyis defected from Romania to the U.S. in 1981 and the ranch played a vital part in the U.S.’s rise from also-ran to dominant force.

When Martha Karolyi was elevated to national team coordinator in 2001, she installed a centralized system that required national team members to make regular visits to the ranch for training and to foster a team environment that can be difficult to cultivate in an individual sport. The U.S. has produced the last three Olympic all-around champions — with reigning three-time world champion Simone Biles expected to make it four straight in Rio — while adding two Olympic team silvers to go with the gold from London.

“Once everybody sees that this system is working and producing world and Olympic champions, they believe in it,” Martha Karolyi said last fall. “We believe they will be hopefully following in a same direction down the road. We want to make sure this is safe for generation after generation.”

While Penny considers Aug. 24 as Karolyi’s official retirement date, there has been no decision yet on her replacement.

“I have yet to have a formal discussion with anyone that has expressed interest,” Penny said. “I’ve met with the coaches and told them our main goal is to get through Rio and not worry about making it a distraction.”

The Karolyis have pledged to donate $250,000 to USA Gymnastics after the sale.

“That’s how solid our relationship is with them,” Penny said. “This has been a very smooth and cooperative effort to get to a good place where everybody is comfortable with what we’re doing.”

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