Michael Phelps: I’ve looked at my 22 medals together once or twice

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The last two days in Los Angeles marked one of the greatest gatherings of Olympic legends outside of the Olympic Games.

The list included Michael Phelps, Carl LewisNadia Comaneci, Bart ConnerGreg LouganisApolo OhnoYuna KimMichelle Kwan, Scott HamiltonMeryl Davis, Hannah TeterAbby WambachJohn Carlos and Ato Boldon.

They came for the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony and the Doha Goals Forum. Here are excerpts from Phelps’ interview with Boldon, an NBC Olympics track and field analyst, and questions Phelps took from an audience at the Doha Goals Forum on Sunday:

On where he keeps his medals: I think there’s only one person, maybe a handful of people in this world who know where my medals are. … I probably have only looked at them about once or twice all together because there are so many other things that I want to do, whether it’s in the pool or out of the pool. My goals are nonstop.

On being at the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony: I stood right at the bottom of the tunnel and watched all the athletes come out. You could feel the energy that was coming out. … I guess I kind of thought back to what it would have been like if I was able to experience that [Phelps has never attended an Olympic Opening Ceremony, as athletes who compete in the first weekend of the Games often skip it]. … It just sent chills up my body.

On his comeback: It was like 9:30, 10 o’clock at night one day, and I called him [coach Bob Bowman]. 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. That’s the way we’ve been doing it. I’m in a much better place now than I probably have ever been in my career.

On feeling less pressure: Going into 2012, I felt like I had to finish there. I had to make it to 2012. Now, I’m just having fun.

On being a Special Olympics global ambassador: As a kid, I was picked on. I was made fun of. … I used to remember kids flicking [my ears] in school. I can still remember to this day, I remember the teacher and her name in middle school who told me that I would never succeed in anything that I would ever put my mind to.

On Olympic memories: The first [gold medal] was one of the coolest [the 400m individual medley at the Athens 2004 Olympics in world-record time]. Sort of never, ever forgetting exactly where my mom and I shared that first gold medal through a chain-link fence in Athens, Greece, because I was unable to get to my mom. So I passed it through this little chain-link fence [while holding a peanut butter sandwich and telling his mom, “Look what I did,” as has been reported often since 2004]. I think 2008, probably 200m free. I look at that race, and today, still, and say that’s probably my best race I’ve ever swam in my life from start to finish. It was kind of over at 15 meters. I was in the best shape possible. My stroke was perfect. Everything about that race, to me, was the best. [Phelps broke his world record in that event by nine tenths of a second]

On his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000: I was so discouraged that I didn’t medal. I was fifth in my first Olympics at 15 [in his only race, the 200m butterfly]. I didn’t tie my suit. It was my first time out of the country. I was literally not prepared at all. But I wanted so much more, and I could never, ever settle unless I was the absolute best.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

On his inspirations: I looked up to Michael Jordan really as a kid because of what he did and how he changed the sport of basketball. That’s what I wanted to do in the sport of swimming. We’ve come a long way since 2000 and my first Olympic Games.

Michael Phelps, Hailey Cannaday star in ESPN ‘My Wish’ segment

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”