Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps still fueled to win going into second comeback meet

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Michael Phelps said he felt like a kid in April, when he swam in his first meet since the 2012 Olympics and uttered the word “fun” repeatedly in interviews.

Phelps, a man with 18 Olympic gold medals and 26 World Championships, won zero events at the Mesa Grand Prix last month, essentially dipping his toes back into competitive waters with a shallow one-and-a-half-event program.

Phelps’ second comeback meet is the Charlotte Grand Prix, where he swims two events, both Friday. He was questioned on Thursday if his competitive fire is still there, 21 months since he last stood atop a podium.

“I don’t want anybody to beat me,” Phelps said. “Nobody.”

In Mesa, Phelps took second to Ryan Lochte in the 100m butterfly and then swam the butterfly stroke in a 50m freestyle preliminary race, where he finished seventh and didn’t make the evening finals.

It’ll be a slightly heavier load in Charlotte. Phelps plans to swim the 100m butterfly again but this time pair it with the 200m free in the same preliminary session.

“I guess now I’m moving up to the big leagues,” said Phelps, dripping with hyperbole. He isn’t sure he will swim both finals Friday night.

Lochte isn’t swimming in Charlotte, but Phelps’ penchant for winning will be tested in the 200m free by the gold and silver medalists from last year’s World Championships. They happen to be his training partners in Baltimore — Yannick Agnel and Conor Dwyer.

“I really started feeling better freestyle-wise in workouts over the last week or so, so it will be interesting to see how this 200 goes,” Phelps said. “It will be fun to hop in and really race these guys in their best events. The biggest thing is to just to see what kind of shape I’m.”

Charlotte Grand Prix preview, schedule

Remember, Phelps showed up to last year’s World Championships as a spectator in a walking boot. He gained 30 pounds in retirement but has shed most or all of it since returning to training last year, at the approval of his longtime coach, Bob Bowman.

“The reason that I guess I sanctioned this activity, whatever it is, I don’t know what you want to call it, is because he’s doing it the right way and for the right reasons,” said Bowman, who often sits or stands next to Phelps in interviews, as he did Thursday. “When he comes in the door, he’s got a smile on his face. I don’t have to force him to do anything. So as long as it continues like that, I think we’re good, because that’s the only reason he should do it. If he loves to swim and he wants to do it, I always said Mozart should make music as long as he wants to make music. He shouldn’t have to retire just because he’s 30 or some age, but by the same token it should be good music.”

Last year, Phelps communicated his desire to return to swimming in typical 18th-century composer fashion — by text message to Bowman. He said he had interest in going to a training camp at altitude in Colorado Springs, the kind of grueling trip Phelps wasn’t exactly enamored with over his four Olympics.

That perplexed Bowman, a man with a university degree in developmental psychology and a minor in music composition.

“Since he has kicked and screamed going to Colorado for the last decade, I’m not really sure why he wanted to do that,” Bowman said. “So that’s kind of how it started.”

They had a serious talk last August, laying out the conditions, and the coach/swimmer relationship, once fraught with hassle, is now more easygoing.

“We’re not quite so … ” Bowman began, searching for an adjective. ” … urgent.”

If training isn’t perfect, Bowman doesn’t lose sleep over it like he did for 16 years during Phelps’ ascent from the rankling little brother of a 1996 Olympic hopeful to the most decorated Olympian of all time.

But at some point the pressure will rise, if Phelps wants to go to his fifth Olympics and win more gold medals in Rio (to which he hasn’t yet committed).

“We’ve got to balance that [competitive fire] with the amount of work we want to put in to swim whatever program might end up being,” Bowman said.

That line perked Phelps up, sitting next to Bowman at a table in Charlotte.

“There goes the word, ‘program,’ start it now,” Phelps said, drawing laughs, of the term Bowman has long used for Phelps’ outline of swimming six, seven and eight events at major international meets.

“We’re going to find out a little bit more about the program tomorrow, and then we’ll know more,” Bowman said.

That drew an inevitable, jocular, follow-up question.

What is the program for Rio?

“There is no program for Rio,” Bowman said. “There’s just a program for Charlotte.”

The Phelps-Bowman back-and-forth continued when Phelps said swimming now is “a lot funner than golf.”

“You guys are writing that down?” Bowman told reporters.

Phelps, a poker nut, also went all-in on golf during his retirement, playing in European celebrity events (including sinking a 51-yard putt in St. Andrews, Scotland) and learning from Hank Haney in a Golf Channel series.

“It was all downhill after that putt, right?” Bowman joked.

“I actually should have just retired from the sport after that,” Phelps said.

But he hasn’t. Phelps lamented that he still hasn’t broken 85, though he did shoot 43 for nine holes recently and worked more with Haney in Cabo earlier this month. He has goals left in the sport, just as he does in swimming.

“I’d still like to get down to a scratch golfer,” Phelps said. “I have learned, just like anything else that you do, you have to play a lot. You have to play every day.”

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Michael Phelps: I had to keep marriage ‘hush-hush’

FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2016, file photo, United States' swimmer Michael Phelps celebrates winning his gold medal in the men's 200-meter butterfly with his fiance Nicole Johnson and baby Boomer during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Arizona Republic reported Oct. 26, 2016, that Phelps and Johnson secretly married on June 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
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Michael Phelps said Thursday that he had to keep his June marriage to Nicole Johnson “hush-hush.”

Phelps and Johnson, who got engaged in February 2015, were married June 13, though Phelps had been saying all summer and into the fall that they were not yet married.

“You guys probably already saw the article that was posted [about the marriage],” Phelps said, widening his eyes and sticking the tip of his tongue out while golfing shirtless with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. “I’ve been married for a while, been married for while, couple months. I had to keep it secret from y’all. I had to keep it hush-hush from you guys. Nicole and I are married. We are officially married.”

Phelps and Johnson welcomed baby boy Boomer on May 5.

“Why is it a secret? Just because. … Baby No. 2 may be coming soon, who knows though,” Phelps said.

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Karolyis named in lawsuit against ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

In a July 15, 2008 photo, Dr. Larry Nassar works on the computer after seeing a patient in Michigan. Multiple gymnasts, including a member of the 2000 U.S. women's Olympic team, said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a former longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics, court documents and interviews show. (Becky Shink/Lansing State Journal via AP)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former gymnast on the U.S. women’s national team is the latest athlete to accuse a longtime team doctor of sexual abuse.

But she’s the first to allege renowned husband-and-wife coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles contends Dr. Larry Nassar repeatedly sexually abused the now-24-year-old gymnast when she was on the team from 2006 to 2011.

It says the Karolyis, and the current and former presidents of USA Gymnastics knew of molestations committed by Nassar before and during his employment, “yet chose to allow him to remain unsupervised,” allowing further abuse.

Nassar’s lawyer and the Karolyis didn’t respond to messages Thursday. Nassar’s lawyer has previously denied abuse allegations by two other gymnasts.

USA Gymnastics is also named in the suit. The Indiana-based governing body denies wrongdoing.

MORE: Michigan State fires Nassar after sexual abuse accusations