Michael Phelps
Getty Images

Michael Phelps touched by reaction to Sports Illustrated story

Leave a comment

Michael Phelps popped on social media, scanned strangers’ comments and friends’ text messages after his revealing Sports Illustrated cover story came out Tuesday.

“How did it feel to say whatever you want to say and be human?” friends asked.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” Phelps told media Wednesday. “I’m a human being. Everything’s out there.”

He picked out one Twitter comment.

“I wasn’t that fond of him, but after reading this article my mind has really been interested in the sport and watching him over the next year,” Phelps paraphrased before adding his reaction. “I think just reading things like that, it’s pretty cool, and it’s the first time I felt that way.”

Phelps spoke Wednesday in Minneapolis, where he could swim in as many as six events at the meet kicking off the Olympic season.

“For me, when I see athletes tell their stories and be more human, I think there’s a better connection,” he said. “I think it just shows that we are all human beings, and it’s OK to seek help if you need it. I think that’s something that I hope a lot of people got out of that.

The meet runs from Thursday through Saturday, with live webcasts on USASwimming.org (10 a.m. ET prelims; 7 p.m. finals).

It’s the first meet including all four U.S. swimming headliners — Phelps, Ryan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky — since the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

A little more than one month after Pan Pacs, Phelps was arrested on DUI charges, beginning an 11-month journey that climaxed with a comeback at the U.S. Championships in August.

At Nationals, Phelps swam the world’s fastest times of the year in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley, including the world’s fastest times in the butterfly events since 2009 (the record-wild, fast-suit era). He celebrated emphatically, slamming his arms in the San Antonio pool.

Minneapolis marks his first meet since, and the setting conjures memories of Phelps’ first Senior Nationals at the same University of Minnesota pool, when he was a 14-year-old in 1999.

Then, Phelps spent more time in awe of Olympic medalists Tom Dolan and Tom Malchow than on concentrating on his own swims.

“Dead last in two events,” coach Bob Bowman quipped Wednesday. “Very successful.”

Phelps’ confidence seems unshakable now, after emerging from the darkest time of his life last year and then lighting up the pool in San Antonio three months ago.

“There’s still more in the tank,” Phelps said. “I have very lofty goals [which Phelps, as his is policy, wouldn’t reveal]. … We’re working on getting faster.”

Phelps went into the U.S. Championships in August skeptical, after spring meets that left him describing his swimming as “horrendous” and “garbage.”

“As soon as the first one happened at Nationals, I thought, wow, I can really do something here,” Phelps said. “It kind of opened my eyes up.

“It just gives me, I guess, a lot more hope that there’s a lot more that him [Bowman] and I can do over the next year.”

Now, after spending three weeks training at altitude in Colorado Springs, he feels a little more like that kid who forgot to tie his suit strings and wore the wrong credential at the Sydney Olympics.

“I’m hungrier than where I was leading into 2012, besides the recovery part for me, how it’s a little bit slower nowadays,” said Phelps, who turned 30 on June 30 and in 2016 can become the oldest individual Olympic swimming champion. “I feel like I did in high school, like that kind of excitement level.”

Phelps said he’s “giddy.”

“It’s kind of scary going into this year,” he said, pausing for a second and then rephrasing. “Scary in a good way.”

MORE: Michael Phelps revealed comeback to family with 3 a.m. voicemail

USA Gymnastics closes Karolyi Ranch

Getty Images
Leave a comment

USA Gymnastics said it will no longer use the Karolyi Ranch in Texas as its training center, where athletes said Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts.

“USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas,” USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a press release Thursday. “It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December. Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.

“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”

MORE: Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

World champions Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols said that Nassar sexually abused gymnasts at the ranch.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch,” Nichols wrote in a victim impact statement read at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings on Wednesday and published last week. “This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

“I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

“He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”

Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, urged USA Gymnastics to close the ranch in a Tuesday interview on ESPN.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” she said. “I hope they listen, and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after, you know, so many of us were abused there.”

Simone Biles did not specifically name the Karolyi Ranch in her Monday statement, but Raisman said Tuesday that Biles was referring to that site.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing at Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” was posted on Biles’ social media.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, said Nassar was alone with her in her bed at the ranch.

“There was no one else sent with him,” she said on CBS last year. “The treatment was in the bed, in my bed that I slept on at the ranch.”

USA Gymnastics said in July 2016 that it reached an agreement with former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi to purchase the training facility the couple owned.

The national governing body backed out of the purchase in May “for a variety of reasons” but continued under its current lease agreement while exploring alternative locations for camps. It held national team camps there in September and November.

The Karolyis established the ranch in 1983 after defecting from Romania. It had been a national team training center since 2001.

Larry Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

AP
1 Comment

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A statement from McKayla Maroney read Thursday repeated that sexual assault by Larry Nassar “left scars” in her mind that may never fade as a judge heard a third day of testimony from victims.

Nassar could be sentenced Friday in Lansing. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been listening to dozens of young women who were molested after seeking his help for injuries.

Aquilina started the hearing Thursday by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. He called the hearing “a media circus.”

The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”

“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls as a doctor for Michigan State University and at his home.

He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics for nearly two decades. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a statement read by a prosecutor (Maroney’s statement was previously posted in the fall). “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness.”

“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”

Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

The judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar.

It’s “about their control over other human beings and feeling like God and they can do anything,” Aquilina said of sex offenders.

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.