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Michael Phelps, under an alias, finds new competitive outlet; Q&A

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NEW YORK — Michael Phelps sat down for a Q&A on Thursday while visiting to promote Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts campaign …

(condensed and lightly edited)

OlympicTalk: I watched your CNBC interview today, and you mentioned being on the bike. It reminded me of a Men’s Journal interview you did last year where you mentioned doing a competitive spin class. Is biking your primary form of exercise now?

PHELPS: It’s all I do. I pound it. I went 30 straight days on the bike. (Pulls out phone to look up statistics) 500 miles in 30 days, 1,100 minutes and 28,000 calories. I was just basically at the point I just was like, I’m just going to grind for a month and see what happens. Somebody said, what are you going to do after that month? Probably keep going. I like having that competition on the bike. I ride a Peloton, so I ride in classes. I have an alias. No one knows it’s me.

That’s something that gets me going because I know how it was in the pool. If I didn’t feel well, if I was tired, this or that, I knew I still had to do it. For me, having that leaderboard on the right-hand side of the screen that tells me where I am in the list drives me a little bit. So it’s now basically I’m probably top five, top 10 percent every single time I’m in there. I just try to push myself. The biggest thing for me now being retired, I know how important it is for me to get that energy out, to be the best version of myself. So I make sure I have to get a workout in six or seven days a week. I mean, I was up this morning at 5:15 to get a workout.

I’d like to get back into lifting a little bit, put some more muscle on, but I’m still not getting back [to competitive swimming], so don’t ask.

Editor’s Note: Thirty straight days of cycling 30 to 60 minutes is nothing for Phelps. For years as a swimmer, he practiced every day. Including Christmas. Including his birthday (sometimes twice on his birthday).

OlympicTalk: Since you brought it up, I have to make sure, you’re not in the drug-testing pool, right?

PHELPS: No. I don’t think I’ll ever get back in that thing.

Editor’s Note: U.S. swimmers who re-enter the drug-testing pool to unretire must wait nine months before returning to competition. Since Phelps is not in the testing pool now, even if he wanted to race this year, he would not be eligible until 2019 in the unforeseen scenario he feels the itch to come back.

OlympicTalk: I’ve never seen you leaner than in yesterday’s Instagram photo.

PHELPS: I’m back around 190 pounds (187 the last time on a scale). I’m less than what I was in Rio, but that’s basically all muscle that I’ve lost. I’ve kept on top of it because, for me, it’s all I know. Basically 20-plus years in the sport, working out every single day. I know how much happier I am when I’m in good shape. I love it. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. It’s that craziness that I have in my head that I have to work out every day.

OlympicTalk: Any competitive goals in cycling that would cause you to enter a race?

PHELPS: If I could do a triathlon and not do the run, I would instantly do it. Swimming is easy. I still swim a couple of times a month just to get in and splash and see the sun, but I don’t think so [cycling]. I would get my [butt] kicked on the bike. Some of those guys are ridiculous on the road. I wanted to start riding on the road, but I’m not going to get the kind of resistance that I get on my stationary bike. The workout’s going to be different. I love what I do, to be able to sit and take 45 minutes to 90 minutes to be able to get a workout in, get a bike in, to stretch, do some abs outside and call it a day, I’m good.

OlympicTalk: The last time you were here, you mentioned an American swimmer was thinking about a comeback. Was that Allison Schmitt, and what do you think of her coming back this weekend?

PHELPS (nods head): I’m excited for her. She is a sister of mine, and for her being able to come to that point where she knows that she wants to do something to make herself happy and be able to finish how she wants. For me, going through that in 2016, kind of looking back now, two years later, I’m happy I did it. I’m very happy I was able to finish how I wanted to. That’s what I hope for her. I hope she can get to that place. We talk every day about certain little small things that can help her. It will be interesting to see where she’s at this week. I have no idea what to expect. I mean, I’ve heard some things she’s been doing in training. She seems to be having some fun. I know she’s going through some struggles. I just told to her keep grinding. It’s going to get better. It’s going to get easier. Trust me. I went through this. I know. She just wants to get up and race and just do it for her. I’m happy that she’s doing it for the right reasons.

OlympicTalk: We’re coming up on a big anniversary for your career this summer. When I say Beijing Olympics, what’s the first image that pops into your head?

PHELPS: Probably the definition of, like, a perfect meet. ‘07, ‘08 were the two greatest years of my career. So being able to look back and see a lifetime dream, goal of doing something nobody’s ever seen in the Olympic world or swimming in general. It’s what I wanted as a kid. It’s what I dreamed of as a kid. Being able to take Nicole and Booms there after Rio was cool. Going back down those memories and watching some of those races and having some of those moments back into my head was so cool.

Talking about Schmitty, that’s something that I forced her to do. We went back and watched a bunch of different races, trying to pick up on certain stroke things, body position that I had in ‘08 or so many of those swimmers had in ‘08.

OlympicTalk: You mentioned in an Instagram from your return to Beijing, sorry, Nicole and Boomer, for all the tears.

PHELPS: It was emotional being there [in 2016]. It was cool because she wasn’t there [in 2008]. We never really talked about it. Just the moment where I was standing on the blocks. I stood behind every single lane I was in. Did the same walk through when I was walking back through the mixed zone and walking back to the warm-up pool. Just a lot of memories came up. That’s what I prepared for. That whole career was to do something nobody has else had done before. To be able to have that opportunity right in front of my face and to relive all of those memories again, of course brought back tears. Tears of joy to be able to share it with my family.

OlympicTalk: When you stood behind those blocks, which race came back to your mind first?

PHELPS: It’s hard not to bring up the 100 ‘fly [beating Milorad Cavic by one hundredth of a second]. That one, and the close ones you have to bring up first. The French relay was pretty ridiculous, probably one of the greatest relays ever [with Jason Lezak overtaking Alain Bernard on anchor]. The individuals, the 100 ‘fly and probably the 200 free. I think, before Rio, that was probably my greatest race ever. Probably my greatest race ever in my opinion was the 200 ‘fly in Rio. That was the most pain I’ve ever been in. That was the one I wanted the most.

OlympicTalk: Did you save anything from Beijing other than the medals, like the goggles that slipped from the 200 butterfly or a picture of the close finish from the 100 butterfly?

PHELPS: We have photos that we’re putting up when we move into a different house. There are just so many cool moments and memories from that, from those Games. I have every piece of clothing from all Olympics. Going back and looking through some of that stuff is pretty crazy. The goggles, I’m sure I have. I have every suit, every cap that I’ve ever worn in international competition saved, archived. Nothing really stands out, though.

I guess the medals are incredible to look at. Boomer doesn’t really like them, though. I put one around his neck. He didn’t seem too interested in it. He took it right off and handed it right back to me.

OlympicTalk: You’ve been promoting the Every Drop Counts campaign for a while now? What’s the message you’re here to send today?

PHELPS: It has been really cool over the last year or so when people do come up, and they’re like, I think of you when I brush my teeth in the morning, I have to turn the water off. I think it is making a difference of what we are trying to say and what we’re trying to help people understand. Really just, still, being able to think that when you do brush your teeth, that’s four gallons you’re wasting, 64 glasses of water. That’s something so important now, having two kids, whether it’s putting a little sticker that turns red when the water’s on too long for Boomer, for him to see it, for him to learn, it’s kind of cool. He’s at that stage where he picks up and grabs every little small thing that we do and say. That’s something that Nicole and I are really trying to teach him, and hopefully he can pass on to Becks [2-month-old son Beckett].

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VIDEO: Kobe Bryant tries to coax Michael Phelps to unretire

Kobe Bryant tries to coax Michael Phelps to unretire (video)

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Not even Kobe Bryant could entice Michael Phelps to get back in the competition pool.

Bryant, a two-time Olympic champion, egged on Phelps while presenting the female athlete of the year award at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

“Since it never gets old, would you like, just one more time?” Bryant told Phelps on stage (at 68:20 mark here). “Not me. You. You’re in much better shape than I am, dude. You can do it one more time.”

Phelps, as he has done for the last year, dismissed it.

“I’d rather be sitting in the stands during the next one and watching all of you,” Phelps said to the crowd, many of whom were active swimmers.

“All right, then I can save you a seat,” Bryant responded. “Just let me wear one of those medals.

“I got distracted by the gold medals, man. I’m wondering how he puts 28 [Olympic medals] on. I have no idea how that works. It’s crazy to me.”

The retired Lakers star got a first-hand look at an in-his-prime Phelps as a spectator at the 2008 Olympic swimming venue, the Water Cube.

“After seeing my first race in Beijing, I was hooked,” Bryant said.

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MORE: Ledecky wins race by 54 seconds, breaks record

Michael Phelps on Ledecky, Bolt, McGregor, Boomer’s first words

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NEW YORK — Michael Phelps sat down for a quick Q&A last week while visiting to promote Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts campaign

(condensed and lightly edited)

OlympicTalk: What was your favorite moment of the summer’s world swimming championships?

Phelps: I loved watching Caeleb [Dressel] do some of the things that he did. It’ll be interesting to see what his event program looks like over the next couple of years to see if he adds or takes away any events. It’s good to start at world championships and show and see that you can do it at a world championships. Now I would say it’s really trying to perfect that schedule. We started doing a schedule like that in ’02 or ’03, and it took us four to six years to really kind of figure out what the best way to do it was. We perfected it by Beijing.

Also Katie [Ledecky]. I’ve talked to Katie a little bit over the last couple of weeks. It’s fun to see and hear her excitement level. Coming off a world championships after an Olympic year is always challenging. The world championships after an Olympics is usually kind of blah. It’s going to be fun to watch her transition the next couple of years and see what happens.

It’s fun watching some of these younger guys now step up, younger women step up and swim some of the times they’re swimming. I literally said to [my agent] this morning, “I probably could come back, but I just have zero desire.”

Like, I have a friend who is in the process of making a choice to continue or to stop [competing]. I was like, yeah, it’s fun, I’m finally back into working out again, like, pretty big, where I’ve lost probably 12 to 15 pounds since my highest point. It’s just getting back into that rhythm. It’s something for me that’s so easy and so simple to do. I was like, “I think it would be really easy to do it [return to competitive swimming]. I just don’t have any goals. I have nothing to come back and want to do.”

OlympicTalk: What sense did you get from Ledecky of what she thought about her world championships performance?

Phelps: It’s tough to always drop time, right? I went almost six years without doing a best time [from 2011 Worlds to his 4x100m free relay split at the 2016 Olympics]. It’s annoying. It’s the worst. I absolutely hated it. But if you do have meaningful goals, and they do keep getting you out of bed every single morning to go in and try and perfect them, then you’ll be fine.

From an outsider looking on, my opinion, it’s hard to watch when she’s reached this high point where she’s basically broken every single world record countless times — over and over and over and over and over again. There are times you’ll plateau a hair. It just depends on what you do to make that next step. For me, I’m hoping she jumps. I’m hoping she takes a huge hurdle.

I basically just reached out and was like, I’d love to help. There are very few people that understand what you’re going through. Let me know if I can do anything.

It’s going to be fun to watch her really, I would say, almost go back to the basics. She obviously knows what to do to be the best. She’s proved it time and time again. It’ll be fun to watch her grow.

OlympicTalk: So you reached out to her?

Phelps: I reached out to her. Just checking to make sure she’s OK. There’s probably three or four people on the national team that I’ll talk to.

OlympicTalk: I’m wondering who that swimmer is who is thinking whether to come back.

Phelps: You’ll see soon enough.

OlympicTalk: American?

Phelps: Yeah.

OlympicTalk: Do you consider Dressel’s seven golds at worlds, with two in the new mixed-gender relays, the same as your feat in 2007?

Phelps: Obviously, seven gold medals is seven gold medals, right? For me, [2007 World Championships] was the first time I could have won eight [gold medals], but we DQed in morning [medley] relay.

You can’t take anything away from winning seven gold medals, right? There are very few people who have had that opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relay or an individual event. A relay event is kind of more challenging because we all have to work together.

I’m not a huge fan of the mixed relays, but I’m not in the sport anymore. But I think it is kind of cool that it’s basically a chess match, right? Try to figure out the best order [of male and female swimmers].

It’s going to be really challenging for anybody to put a team together that can beat the U.S. Our depth is just ridiculous.

OlympicTalk: Chase Kalisz said before worlds that you said some things to him after his Olympic silver medal that he won’t forget. What can you share about that?

Phelps: I just said if he wants to win a gold medal, make sure he always remembers what a silver feels like. There’s going to be countless days where he’s probably not going to want to go to work out. Or he’s probably not going to want to make that extra little bit of commitment to make sure he has a better chance to win that gold medal next time.

And you have every four years to have that chance. I just want to make sure the kid’s ready. I was always somebody who worked better with past experiences. If I had a defeat, that’s what made me get out of bed in the morning, to make sure I did not have that feeling of getting second. I hated getting second.

And I know how bad he wants to win [an Olympic] gold medal. He knows what he’s doing. He’s swimming well. He’s training well. He had a great year [sweeping the 200m and 400m individual medleys at worlds].

OlympicTalk: Did you watch Usain Bolt’s last races, and did it make you think of anything, the way it ended for him?

Phelps: I’m sure that’s probably not how he wanted it to end, somebody who has had great success for three Olympics, right?

Who knows, maybe he does come back and do something again? For me, that was the biggest thing of why I wanted to come back. I had that 400m IM and 200m butterfly in 2012 that just left a sour taste in my mouth. I didn’t want that for the rest of my life.

OlympicTalk: Have you heard anything from Conor McGregor?

Phelps: No. I don’t think I will. I don’t think he’ll reach out for a race.

OlympicTalk: Has Boomer spoken his first words?

Phelps: He wakes up every morning and screams “Da-Da!”

OlympicTalk: So does that count?

Phelps: I’m counting it. He said “Da-Da” before “Mom,” so yeah. I mean, that’s all he says. I’m the morning guy. I take the morning shift. So every morning he’s yelling dad at the top of his lungs.

OlympicTalk: You’ve spoken about your campaign with Colgate before. What’s new this time around?

Phelps: We’re becoming a family four, five if you add [eight-time Olympic medalist] Allison [Schmitt], and if you think, the average family per day can waste up to 400 gallons. We can waste so much water. It’s not just brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You think about everything else that goes into that. We have a big yard, so water in the yard. Always trying to make sure we’re saving every single drop. It’s something we can all work on together.

Since we first launched the campaign, I think I’ve found more and more that people are coming up and being like, every time I brush my teeth now I think of you and turn off the water. People are doing it, and we want to make another push to get people on board.

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VIDEO: Phelps says he could come back if he wanted to