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

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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