Tag: swimming

Janet Evans relives 1996 Olympic torch handoff to Muhammad Ali (video)

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Janet Evans tells people that she would give up all five of her Olympic swimming medals to live that moment just one more time.

So Evans considered it an honor to host the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards on Sept. 19.

“I think we all have our Muhammad Ali moments, moments that he inspired us, moments that he changed our lives, moments that he inspired us to be better than what we already are,” Evans said in her opening address at a podium inside a hotel ballroom in Louisville, Ky., the 1960 Olympic boxing champion’s hometown. “My Muhammad Ali story took me from being an Olympic winner to being an Olympic champion.”

Evans went on to retell her part of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic torch relay as the next to last torch bearer. Here’s a transcript:

About six weeks outside of the Olympic Games, I received a call from a gentleman named Billy Payne, the great southern gentleman who brought the Olympics to the great city of Atlanta. Billy asked me if I would do him a favor and run the torch at the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. He would not tell me who was passing me the torch. He would not tell me who I was passing the torch to, but I would be the second to last person to carry that flame, and the final woman.

I said to Mr. Payne, ‘Mr. Payne, I’m a swimmer. Swimmers don’t go to Opening Ceremonies. We swim the next day.’ I’d never been to the Opening Ceremonies as an athlete. I’d been in ’84 as a spectator. I said, ‘Plus, how many people are going to be watching?’ And he said, ‘Oh, you know, three billion or so.’ And I said, ‘Well, Mr. Payne, once again I’m a swimmer. Swimmers don’t run. I am not going to carry a lit flame through the Atlanta stadium and fall and forever be remembered as that little swimmer who dropped the Olympic flame and lit the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Stadium on fire.’ Well, in his true southern gentleman style, Mr. Payne talked me into it.

And at midnight, the night before Opening Ceremonies, under the cover of darkness, I went to the Atlanta stadium, and I practiced running the torch. The only thing was the person that was lighting that cauldron wasn’t there. But when they told me it was going to be Muhammad Ali, and when they told me that I had to keep it secret, because let me tell you I wanted to tell everyone, I was more nervous than ever. How do you pass the Olympic flame to the greatest, right? I was out of my mind, and I had to swim the next day.

Before I know it, it’s the Opening Ceremonies, and I’m running along that track, and I’m thinking, don’t fall, Janet. Just don’t fall. Get up to Ali. He’s going to be waiting for you. Don’t fall. Don’t light the stadium on fire. Don’t catch my hair on fire with the flame. And I looked to my left, my first Opening Ceremonies as an athlete, and I see 10,000 athletes that are in Atlanta representing their countries. I see the Americans, because they pushed their way to the front of that crowd of athletes. And I see the gymnasts on the shoulders of the basketball team. And I see the water polo team. I don’t see swimmers, because they weren’t there. My friends on the water polo team are shouting, ‘You’re going to fall!’ And I didn’t.

And I looked past the Americans, for the first time. This was my third Olympic Games. I was the girl in the village that ate with the Americans. I spoke only to the Americans. I didn’t experience the Olympics. And I looked, and I saw athletes from all over the world. And I saw, yes, the stars, but I saw the table tennis player from Mongolia, and I saw the fencer from Tunisia, and I saw the athletes that we don’t see on NBC. And I saw the looks in their eyes. And I saw the excitement they were experiencing for being at the Olympics and participating in something that brings people together.

And I ran up that track, and I ran up those three big, long stairways. And I got to the top, and there stood Muhammad Ali. And I never cried after any of my Olympic medals, but I wanted to cry. And my moment with him was brief; you saw how quickly he lit that flame. But that moment for me, standing there, watching this man, with his courage and his determination, and being brought into the Olympic fold once again, 36 years after his gold medal in 1960. And to stand there in front of the world and inspire even more young people like myself, to be and do and accomplish anything we want to do, it was an epiphany for me. It was a defining moment in my Olympic career.

After those Olympics, I wanted to quit swimming and go back to college, and I don’t know what I wanted to do. But after standing there with that man and watching him, I realized that as an Olympian, as an Olympic champion, a mantle we carry is to inspire and motivate others. And no one has ever done that greater than Muhammad Ali. So, Mr. Ali, thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for allowing me to continue to inspire young swimmers and young people to do and be the very best that they can be as well. Thank you.

MORE ATLANTA 1996: Ten memorable moments from Turner Field/Centennial Olympic Stadium

Wladimir Klitschko remembers meeting Ali at 1996 Olympics

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

Michael Phelps, Hilary Phelps
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Hilary Phelps said her brother, Michael, revealed his comeback to the family via a 3 a.m. voicemail on April 15, 2013, she said while in India this week, according to the Times of India.

“The message said, ‘Pack your bags we are going on a trip,'” Hilary said, according to the newspaper, adding that it came after Michael had just bought a house in Mexico and that she still has the recording. “Just when we thought this was finally going to be the family vacation we had never taken, he added, ‘One more time. I’m going for Rio.'”

The news likely pleased mother Debbie, who had texted her son after Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympics on Oct. 2, 2009, pleading with Michael to go back on his planned 2012 retirement to try for a fifth Olympics.

The 22-time Olympic medalist kept his word in retiring after London 2012, but he then came out of a 20-month competitive retirement in April 2014.

Phelps has also spoken about revealing his comeback to longtime coach Bob Bowman in 2012 or 2013.

“It was like 9:30, 10 o’clock at night one day, and I called [Bowman],” Phelps said at the Doha Goals Forum in July. “I was like, ‘What do you think about me coming back?’ He was like, ‘Call me in the morning.’ So I called him the next morning, and he knew that I was for real. I got back to Baltimore, and we had a meeting, and he’s like, we’re going to do this the right way.”

Phelps publicly revealed his comeback on Nov. 14, 2013, after U.S. Anti-Doping Agency statistics showed he had re-entered a drug testing pool mandatory for competition. Bowman said Phelps had re-entered the drug testing pool between April and June 2013.

“If I decide to keep going and swim again, then I’ll compete,” Phelps told The Associated Press then. “If I don’t,” he added, letting out a big laugh, “I guess I’ll re-retire. Just don’t compare me to Brett Favre.”

Phelps has excelled in his comeback so far as the only U.S. man to post a world-leading time in an Olympic event in 2014 and 2015.

This year, he came back from a suspension as punishment following a 2013 DUI arrest to clock the world’s fastest 100m and 200m butterflies since 2009.

MORE MICHAEL PHELPS: Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics

U.S. swimming Golden Goggles nominees announced

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte
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The Big Four of Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin are all nominated for USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Athlete of the Year awards.

Ledecky and Lochte were the only U.S. swimmers to win individual World Championships in the pool in August.

Ledecky and Phelps, who missed Worlds as part of his punishment for last September’s DUI arrest, were the only U.S. swimmers to post world-leading times in Olympic events, for a second straight year.

Franklin and Ledecky were two of the three swimmers overall to earn five medals at the World Championships.

That quartet was joined in Male and Female Athlete of the Year nominations by World champions in open-water swimming — Olympians Haley Anderson and Jordan Wilimovsky.

Ledecky and Phelps won the 2014 Athlete of the Year awards. Ledecky, Phelps, Lochte and Franklin have combined to win every Male and Female Athlete of the Year award since 2011. The last man other than Phelps or Lochte to win was Brendan Hansen in 2006.

Online Golden Goggles voting is available here through Nov. 13. A percentage of the fan vote will count toward the final balloting. The Golden Goggle Awards are Nov. 22 in Los Angeles.

The full nominees:

Breakout Performer of the Year

Katie Meili — Pan American Games and Nationals champion in 100m breaststroke; ranked No. 3 in the world in 2015.
Jordan Wilimovsky — First career U.S. titles (open-water 10km, 1500m freestyle) and World title (open-water 10km) to make first Olympic team.
Kelsi Worrell — NCAA, Pan American Games and Nationals champion in 100 butterfly; ranked No. 3 int he world in 2015.

Perseverance Award

Kevin Cordes — Worlds silver in 200m breaststroke, bronze in 50m breaststroke, two relay medals after DQs at 2013 Worlds, 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.
Connor Jaeger — Won Worlds 1500m freestyle silver in an American record after fourth-place finishes in 400m and 800m frees.
Allison Schmitt — Won 200m free at Pan American Games, U.S. Championships, opened up about battle with depression after missing 2013, 2015 World Championships teams.

Coach of the Year

Bob Bowman — Star pupil: Michael Phelps
Bruce Gemmell — Star pupil: Katie Ledecky
Dave Kelsheimer — Star pupil: Jordan Wilimovsky
David Marsh — Star pupil: Ryan Lochte
Catherine Vogt — Star pupil: Haley Anderson

Relay Performance of the Year (all World Championships finals)

Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay — U.S. wins by .15 of a second over Australia.
Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay — U.S. wins by 3.04 seconds over Italy.
Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay — U.S. wins in world-record time by .05 over Netherlands.

Female Race of the Year (all World Championships finals)

Haley Anderson’s open-water 5km — Gold by 1.4 seconds.
Katie Ledecky’s 200m free – Gold by .16 of a second in come-from-behind fashion.
Katie Ledecky’s 800m free – Gold in world-record time, lowering her mark by 3.61 seconds and winning by 10.26 seconds.
Katie Ledecky’s 1500m free — Gold in world-record time, lowering her mark by 2.33 seconds and winning by 14.66 seconds.

Male Race of the Year

Connor Jaeger’s Worlds 1500m freestyle — Silver in an American record time.
Ryan Lochte’s Worlds 200m individual medley — Gold for fourth straight World title.
Michael Phelps’ Nationals 100m butterfly — Fastest time in the world since 2009.
Michael Phelps’ Nationals 200m butterfly — Fastest time in the world since 2009.
Jordan Wilimovsky’s Worlds open-water 10km — Gold by 12.1 seconds.

Female Athlete of the Year

Haley Anderson — World champion, open-water 5km.
Missy Franklin — World silver medalist, 200m back. World bronze medalist, 200m free. Three Worlds relay medals.
Katie Ledecky — World champion, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m freestyles. One Worlds relay gold medal.

Male Athlete of the Year

Ryan Lochte — World champion, 200m individual medley. Three Worlds relay medals.
Michael Phelps — World’s fastest swimmer in 2015 in 100m, 200m butterflies.
Jordan Wilimovsky — World champion, open-water 10km.

MORE SWIMMING: Ryan Lochte, coach react to controversial rule change