Michael Phelps

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Leave a comment
source:
Phelps listening to a CD while walking out to race in Sydney.

Michael Phelps turned 30 years old Tuesday, which means his Olympic debut was half a lifetime ago.

If he suits up in Brazil next year, he will become the first U.S. male swimmer to compete in five Olympics.

Here’s a look back at Phelps’ first Olympics, in Sydney in 2000, courtesy of NBC footage, newspaper reports and autobiographies:

Phelps, with braces on his bottom teeth, walked onto the pool deck at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials at the Indiana University Natatorium listening to a CD of his favorite rapper, DMX.

At trials, the boy who sprouted four inches in the previous year to 6 feet, 3 inches, came second to 1996 Olympic silver medalist Tom Malchow in the 200m butterfly, earning a spot on the Olympic team.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to an Olympics,” Malchow said then, according to newspaper reports. “He doesn’t know how it’s going to change his life. He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps became the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since the Great Depression, when Ralph Flanagan made it to Los Angeles 1932 at age 13. In 2000, Phelps reportedly shaved his face maybe once or twice a month.

Michael Phelps’ 30th Birthday: Career in Photos | Phelps at Sydney 2000 Olympics | Records Phelps can chase at Rio 2016 | Video: Phelps’ mom texted him about Rio in 2009

Phelps flew to Brisbane for a pre-Games camp, where he stayed out of trouble with a 10 p.m. curfew. Once in Sydney, he made several mistakes befitting a boy of his age.

Phelps roomed in the athletes’ village with 17-year-old Aaron Peirsol, a Californian whose use of the word “sweet” stuck with Phelps.

They played James Bond and Tony Hawk video games during free time, but while alone Phelps tried to fire up the game system himself. Not knowing the electricity conversion between the U.S. and Australia, he fried one of the games, according to the first of his autobiographies, “Beneath the Surface.”

Phelps proved much smoother in the pool at the electric Sydney Aquatic Center.

He looked up and saw some 18,000 people at his first-round heat and then swam a personal best to win over a field including defending Olympic champion Denis Pankratov of Russia.

“Boy, this guy’s going to be great one day,” NBC Olympics analyst Rowdy Gaines said on the broadcast.

In the semifinals that night, Phelps again clocked a personal best. And again, he swam with his waist-to-knees jammer swimsuit strings untied.

source:
Phelps with his suit strings untied before his Olympic debut.

“I just don’t think I’ve ever seen such poise in a 15-year-old boy,” Gaines said on the broadcast.

The next night, coach Bob Bowman wanted Phelps to arrive 2 1/2 hours before the final. But Phelps missed that mandate by 90 minutes. He took Peirsol’s athlete credential by mistake and had to go back to the athletes’ village to retrieve his own.

The final was at 4:20 a.m. Baltimore time. Phelps was obviously nervous. He did something you never see swimmers do during Olympic final introductions. He rose from his chair behind his starting block in lane six, walked past Russian Anatoly Polyakov to his right and up to Malchow in lane four.

“Let’s go baby, you can do this,” he told Malchow.

“I’m not sure what I was thinking,” Phelps said in his first book, “Beneath the Surface.” “I was kind of scared.”

source:
Phelps going up to Malchow seconds before the final.

Phelps was unaffected in the water, touching the wall in 1:56.50, which would have earned silver or gold at every previous Olympics. In Sydney, it put him in fifth place behind the winner Malchow. Phelps, in his trademark style, came back from being in last place after the first 50 meters.

Following the race, Malchow patted Phelps on the back and told him, “The best is ahead of you,” according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography.

Phelps just about met Bowman’s pre-Games suggestion that he aim to cut one second off his personal best. He went .98 faster than at trials, where he also swam personal bests in all three of his 200m fly races.

Bowman put Phelps back in the pool for a workout the next day and reportedly gave his young phenom a piece of graph paper with “Austin WR” written in the margin.

The following March, Phelps became the youngest man to break a world record, doing so in the 200m fly at the spring nationals in Austin, Texas.

source:
Phelps being interviewed by Jim Gray after his Olympic debut.

U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already looks intense

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Serena Williams is in strong early position to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. For everyone else, including older sister Venus Williams, every set of ranking points could be crucial over the next 10 months, including at the upcoming U.S. Open.

The U.S. has seven women in the world top 36 — not including 52nd-ranked Venus — but only four singles players can go to an Olympics from any one country come the rankings cutoff next June.

Serena Williams leads the way for Americans in second place overall in Olympic qualifying — which counts WTA rankings points starting after the 2019 French Open and running through the 2020 French Open. She has 1,885 points despite playing just two events the last two months, taking runner-up at Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.

Only Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who has already been named Romania’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, has more Olympic qualifying points (2,395).

After Serena, three more U.S. women are in the top 10 in Olympic qualifying — Sonya Kenin (No. 5), Madison Keys (No. 8) and Alison Riske (No. 10).

Keys, a quarterfinalist or better at all four Grand Slams in her career, jumped from outside the top 20 among Americans to the No. 3 American by notching her biggest title in Ohio last week.

Notables who must improve their ranking start with Venus Williams, who moved from 18th on the U.S. list to eighth by reaching the Cincinnati quarterfinals. She turns 40 before the Tokyo Games and could become the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. She already owns the modern-era record of five Olympic tennis medals from her five previous Games and could still get to the Olympics in doubles if she doesn’t qualify in singles.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 12th in U.S. Olympic qualifying, winning a total of three matches among four tournaments in the window.

The veterans Williams sisters, Keys and Stephens, who made up the 2016 U.S. Olympic singles team, must fend off an emerging class.

Kenin, 20, backed up her French Open upset of Serena Williams by winning a lower-level event in June and then beating the world Nos. 1 and 2 the last two weeks.

Riske is playing some of the best tennis of her career at age 29. She beat world then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, a week before her wedding.

Then there are two of the phenoms of the year. Coco Gauff, 15, is ninth in U.S. Olympic qualifying after a run to the Wimbledon fourth round. Gauff was granted a wild card into the U.S. Open, after which she can’t play in more than five senior tournaments (and possibly no more than three) until her 16th birthday in March due to WTA age restrictions to keep young teens from burnout.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, is 13th in U.S. Olympic qualifying. Her best results this year — French Open semifinal, Australian Open fourth round — came before the Olympic qualifying window.

It’s looking like the toughest U.S. Olympic women’s singles team to make outright since 2004. Back then, the U.S. had Nos. 4 (Lindsay Davenport), 7 (Jennifer Capriati), 8 (Venus Williams), 11 (Serena Williams) and 18 (Chanda Rubin). Davenport, Capriati and Serena didn’t play at the Athens Games, opening the door for Lisa Raymond to play singles and doubles in Athens.

In 2000, Serena Williams didn’t make the Olympic singles field despite being ranked eighth in the world. A max of three players per nation were taken to Sydney, and the U.S. had Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Davenport, Venus Williams and Monica Seles.

An Olympic rule mandating a minimum of Fed Cup appearances could affect Tokyo 2020 eligibility. However, the fine print allows for that to be bypassed in discretionary exceptional circumstances.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule

U.S. Olympic Women’s Singles Qualifying Standings (Max. 4 can qualify)
1. Serena Williams — 1,885 points
2. Sonya Kenin — 1,081
3. Madison Keys — 972
4. Alison Riske — 802
5. Jennifer Brady — 356
6. Jessica Pegula — 348
7. Madison Brengle — 344
8. Venus Williams — 302
9. Coco Cauff — 298
10. Bernarda Pera — 280
11. Lauren Davis — 245
12. Sloane Stephens — 238
13. Amanda Anisimova — 230

U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Olympic team roster for the 2020 Tokyo Games will eventually reach more than 500 athletes. It is currently at seven.

Qualifying competitions and Olympic Trials events dot the schedule from now into early summer 2020.

Athletes qualified so far:

Modern Pentathlon
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Sport Climbing
Brooke Raboutou

Swimming
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Triathlon
Summer Rappaport

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule