Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps ready to start ‘journey’ in comeback meet

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Michael Phelps said he hit 20,000 golf balls in six months and gained 30 pounds in retirement.

“There was something I missed,” Phelps said Wednesday. “I just missed being back in the water.”

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, will swim competitively for the first time since the 2012 Olympics on Thursday.

He’s bearded and at a comeback meet in Mesa, Ariz., where he is scheduled to swim the 100m butterfly on Thursday and the 50m freestyle on Friday.

What are his expectations?

“Race,” Phelps said. “That’s really all I can ask for right now. I haven’t raced since the 400 medley relay in London. So, just being able to get back in that sort of mentality of competition. That’s one thing that I really love the most about it. When I was really competing in 2012 and throughout my career.”

Phelps no longer sponsored by Speedo

Phelps, 28, has not committed to making a run to the 2016 Rio Olympics, which would be his fifth Games. He said he always has goals and there are things he wants to achieve, but as his custom, would not reveal specifics.

“I guess I’m at least going with my mom [to Rio de Janeiro],” Phelps said. “Whether I’m in the pool or in the stands, I guess time will tell.”

Phelps said he was antsy to get in the pool Wednesday, for post-travel warm-ups at the Skyline Aquatic Center, including what he believed was his first massage since winning six medals, including four golds, at the London Olympics.

Phelps said at least six times in a 14-minute press conference that he’s been having fun since returning to training last year.

His first goal when he jumped back in at North Baltimore Aquatic Club was to get back in shape after getting up to 225 pounds in the year after the Olympics. He previously raced at 187 and was at 194 last week, he said.

Video: Lochte inspired by Phelps’ comeback

“I’m doing this because I want to,” he said. “Nobody’s forcing me. … For me, going into 2012, it was hard. There were a lot ups and downs. It was very challenging, at times, to get motivated. I literally can’t say it enough. I’m having fun.”

His longtime coach, Bob Bowman, said Phelps is happier in training now than before.

“When he first came back he was so out of shape, it’s hard to believe,” said Bowman, sitting next to Phelps.

“Sugarcoat it at least,” Phelps pleaded.

“So it took a while [until January] to get to a point where, OK, he could do this in public,” Bowman said.

Phelps said he at first held off on officially ending his retirement last year. Athletes have to re-enter a drug-testing pool and wait for a period before being able to compete again.

How to watch Michael Phelps’ return in Mesa

“I kind of put one foot in,” Phelps said. “Wasn’t really ready.”

What are the worst parts of the comeback? Two things. One, the pain of training at elevation in Colorado Springs. Two, his experience level compared to other North Baltimore swimmers.

“I really am the grandfather now of the group,” Phelps said. “That’s the worst part about it. I’m the old man.”

Phelps spent plenty of time playing golf in retirement. He’ll be leaving his clubs in the bag more often, for now.

“Golf is something that I will be able to do for the rest of my life,” Phelps said. “There still is a lot of work that needs to be done in that sport for me to be able to get to where I want to go, even after hitting 20,000 golf balls in six months. That will always still be there.”

Phelps’ comeback has been compared to that of Australian legend Ian Thorpe, who came out of a four-year retirement in 2011 and failed to make the 2012 Olympic Team. Thorpe, like Phelps, was 28 when he came back, but he had barely competed since the 2004 Olympics. This is a vastly different scenario.

“If I don’t become as successful as you all think I would be or should be, and you think it tarnishes my career, then that’s your own opinion,” Phelps said. “I’m doing this because I want to come back. I enjoy being in the pool, and I enjoy being in the sport of swimming.

“I think Bob and I can do anything that we put our minds to, and that’s what we’ve done in the past. I am looking forward to wherever this road takes me. I guess the journey will start tomorrow.”

Another Michael set to make splash in Mesa

Roger Federer pulls out of Rio Olympics, rest of season with knee injury

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a shot against Andy Murray of Great Britain during the Men's Singles Tennis Gold Medal Match on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on August 5, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Roger Federer will miss the Rio Olympics, and the rest of the 2016 season, due to a knee injury, he announced Tuesday via Facebook.

“I need more extensive rehabilitation following my knee surgery earlier this year,” he wrote. “The doctors advised that if I want to play on the ATP World Tour injury free for another few years, as I intend to do, I must give both my knee and body the proper time to fully recover.”

The 17-time Grand Slam winner, who’s ranked No. 3 in the world, underwent the first surgery of his career in February after tearing cartilage in his knee. He tweaked the knee while drawing a bath for his twin daughters, “a very simple movement, probably a movement I’ve done a million times,” he said later.

Federer was forced to skip the French Open, which began in May, marking the first Grand Slam he’d missed since 2000. He returned for Wimbledon earlier this month and lost to Milos Raonic in the semifinals, but hasn’t played since. He took an awkward fall during that match, and was unsure afterward how extensively he might have been injured.

“The silver lining is that this experience has made me realize how lucky I have been throughout my career with very few injuries,” Federer wrote Tuesday.

In Rio, Federer was looking to secure his first Olympic singles gold medal, one of the few pieces missing from his extensive collection of titles. He took silver at the London Games, falling to Andy Murray in the final. He was also planning to compete in mixed doubles with Martina Hingis in Rio.

Federer made his Olympic debut for Switzerland as a 19-year-old at the 2000 Sydney Games, where he placed fourth in singles. He was 17th in 2004 and fifth in 2008. At the ’08 Beijing Games, however, he captured the men’s doubles gold medal with Stan Wawrinka.

Federer turns 35 on Aug. 8, meaning he’d be 38/39 if he opted to compete at the next Olympics in Tokyo, which are scheduled to begin July, 24, 2020.

MORE: Rafael Nadal skips Rogers Cup, confident he’ll be ready for Rio

Number of Russian athletes banned from Olympics reaches 105

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Maria Sharapova of the Russia Olympic tennis team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) — At least 105 athletes from the 387-strong Russian Olympic team announced last week have been barred from the Rio Games in connection with the country’s doping scandal.

International federations in canoeing, sailing and modern pentathlon ruled out eight on Tuesday, including an Olympic gold medalist. Rowing added 19 more athletes to three that had previously been announced. Swimming has also barred some athletes. Some appeals are likely.

Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian media that Putin had discussed the doping issue with his national security council.

“The topic of the recent International Olympic Committee ruling relating to Russian athletes was raised ahead of Putin’s planned meeting tomorrow with the Russian Olympic team,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

The vast majority of the Russian athletes who miss out are in track and field, where 67 athletes were ruled out when a ban on the Russian team was upheld at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.

More are falling foul of new rules imposed in the wake of the country’s doping scandal.

While Russia avoided a blanket ban from the International Olympic Committee, it has lost several medal contenders to new IOC rules imposed Sunday banning Russia from entering athletes who previously doped.

Alexander Dyachenko, an Olympic champion in 2012, was among five canoeists ruled out after being named in a recent report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren alleging a state-sponsored doping cover-up.

McLaren’s report last week specifically detailed how Russian state officials allegedly intervened to cover up hundreds of failed drug tests.

Dyachenko won gold in the men’s double kayak 200 meters at the 2012 London Games.

“The ICF will continue its strong zero-tolerance stance and remove all athletes that contravene its rules in anyway,” said Simon Toulson, the International Canoe Federation’s general secretary. “If you step out of line you won’t make the start line.”

The four other banned canoeists are Alexei Korovashkov – a 2012 bronze medalist in the C2 1,000 meters event – Andrei Kraitor, Elena Anyushina and Nataliya Podolskaya.

The ICF also said that Russia would not be allowed to enter boats in four events in which the excluded athletes would have raced. Therefore, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Iran are in line to receive their places.

World Sailing said Pavel Sozykin, who had been due to race in the 470 class, would be excluded because he was mentioned in the McLaren report. Russia’s other six sailors were approve and Russia is able to nominate a replacement for Sozykin, the federation said.

Meanwhile, the International Modern Pentathlon Union named the two Russians it had suspended as Maxim Kustov and Ilya Frolov, saying they both featured in the McLaren report. Kustov’s place in the men’s event passes to a Latvian athlete, while Frolov had only been entered for Rio as a reserve.

There are now a total of 22 Russian rowers who have been excluded. They include Ivan Podshivalov and Anastasia Karabelshchikova, who were excluded because they previously served doping bans, while Ivan Balandin from Russia’s men’s eight was implicated in the McLaren report, World Rowing said. The others, according to a release Tuesday, did not meet standards set by the IOC.

Meanwhile, volleyball player Alexander Markin told local media he had been dropped due to a positive test earlier this year for the banned substance meldonium, even though he had not been banned. The international volleyball federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The head of the Russian Wrestling Federation told the R-Sport agency that two-time world champion Viktor Lebedev was ineligible because he was given a doping ban in 2006.

On Monday, swimming’s world governing body FINA ruled out seven Russians including reigning world 100m breaststroke champion Yulia Efimova.

Legal challenges are looming.

Efimova’s agent has said he is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the Russian Canoe Federation’s general secretary Irina Sirayeva said that the five banned athletes could follow suit.

“The intention to defend the athletes is there,” she told R-Sport.

Triple jumper Ekaterina Koneva – a former world championship silver medalist – told local media she was considering a lawsuit in civil court.

There was good news for Russia as its judo and shooting teams – comprised 11 and 18 athletes respectively – received approval to compete from their sports’ international governing bodies.

Also, Russia also looks set to field a full team of four players in Olympic badminton, the Russian Badminton Federation said Tuesday, citing assurances from the Badminton World Federation.

Previously, archery, tennis and equestrian sport’s world governing bodies said they had no objection to the Russians entered in their sports.

Lists of Russian athletes approved by international federations must still be approved by CAS arbiters who can reject athletes not tested outside Russia.

The IOC refused to accept testing done by Russian agencies because of evidence that the process was corrupted.

MORE: Yulia Efimova among Russian swimmers barred from Olympics