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Michael Phelps joins gold medalists in swim race, but no comeback

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CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Phelps pumped his right fist upon completing the final leg for the winning relay team ahead of Australian great Grant Hackett on Saturday.

It was another golden moment for the winningest Olympic athlete in history, though don’t expect to see him competing on the world’s biggest stage again.

Phelps all but slammed the door on another return after leaving it ever-so slightly ajar in an interview with The Associated Press last month.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I think four years ago, I wasn’t. I think being able to come back and being able to finish how I did and being able to get back to where I wanted to get to – for me, at this point in my life and in my career, that’s all I can ask for. Right?” he said.

“I wanted to have a chance to kind of shut out the `what if’ 20 years down the road. Now, I think 20 years down the road I think I’ll be able to look back and say I’m really happy that I took that opportunity to come back and swim in one more (Olympics).”

Phelps was considering a comeback when he attended the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. By the time it ended, there was no doubt in his mind he would be competing in his fifth Olympics.

In Rio de Janeiro last summer, he got the closure he needed. And if that’s it for him, he sure went out in style.

At age 31, Phelps captured five more gold medals, bringing his total to 23, along with a silver. He swam the second leg in the 4x100m freestyle relay in his final race and put the United States out front for good against a powerful field that included defending champion France, Australia and Russia.

The stakes weren’t quite as high on Saturday.

Phelps was in Chicago to announce a partnership between his foundation and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to promote safety in the pool.

Phelps and fellow Olympians Allison Schmitt and Hackett gave members of the Special Olympics Chicago Aquatics team and children from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago swimming lessons, and the three also swam final legs of a relay race with the Special Olympians.

He also addressed the participants and fielded questions from them before signing autographs and taking a big group selfie.

Retirement, he insisted, is suiting him just fine.

“I’m retiring because it’s time to move on,” Phelps said. “I spent most of my life in the swimming pool. … I have some other goals that I want to accomplish outside of the pool. It’s not the end of my swimming career, it’s the start of something else. I’ll always be around the pool. I’ll always be around the sport. I’m ready to move on. Sometimes, it just happens.”

He’s enjoying spending more time with his wife Nicole and their 1-year-old son Boomer. He has a new sponsorship deal with Colgate in which he’s promoting water conservation and he travels frequently for his various business interests and causes.

“I have no desire to swim 14,000 to 15,000 yards in a day,” Phelps said, referring to his training regimen. “That just doesn’t sound fun to me. I went to swim meets and I was just like, `I’m really happy I’m watching and not competing.”‘

Phelps said he swam 300 yards on Friday. It was his first time in the pool in about a month. Compare that to a training regimen of swimming about 40 to 60 miles a week.

“For 15 years, that’s a long time,” he said. “I want to have my body when Boomer’s 10. I’d like to be able to have shoulders that work; they’re not all banged up from all the training.

“It’s just time for me to move on and spend more time with the family – but also be able to work more directly with the foundation. Working more with mental health. Being able to do all these things that I’m so passionate about, that can change or help somebody’s life.”

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MORE: Usain Bolt ready for tears as retirement nears

Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced four months pregnant in 110-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

In a Wonder Woman top, she gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. … I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

In the men’s 800m, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

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Lilly King to be less vocal on Yuliya Efimova topic this summer

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Expect to see Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova resume their breaststroke rivalry at the world championships next month.

It will look very different than in Rio, when King became a vocal opponent of doping and directed some of her words at the formerly suspended Russian Efimova.

“This summer, I’m not going to talk about everything that happened last summer,” King said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I spoke my piece. I’ve said everything I need to say.”

Her focus needs to stay in the pool, where she must finish first or second at the USA Swimming National Championships next week to make it to worlds (broadcast schedule here).

King said in May her goal is to break world records at worlds in Budapest in July.

She may need to in order to defeat Efimova like in Rio.

Efimova has the fastest 100m breast time in the world this year, a 1:04.82 set on Sunday. The national record put her No. 3 on the all-time list (and .09 faster than King’s winning time in Rio).

King is in third place this year at 1:06.20, though she spent all winter focusing on NCAA competition in 25-yard pools.

In Rio, King said Efimova shouldn’t have been allowed to compete given her doping history.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1, 2016, and was absolved along with other athletes.

King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room before her 100m breast semifinal and relegated the Russian to silver the following the night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last November, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King struggled with her newfound fame after she returned home last summer, sobbing in a winter meeting with her University of Indiana coach, Ray Looze, according to the Indianapolis Star:

It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her. After an initial wave of attention on IU’s campus, she can walk around without interruption.

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