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Michael Phelps: I wasn’t 100 percent at Beijing Olympics

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Michael Phelps believes he can do something at the Rio 2016 Olympics that he did not when he won eight gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Games — compete at 100 percent.

“I’m motivated to go see what I really can do actually giving 100 percent,” Phelps said Wednesday, commenting on his work ethic in training. “’08, ’12, I wasn’t 100 percent at either one of those Games.”

Longtime coach Bob Bowman, seated next to Phelps, interrupted.

“See, he could have won nine [gold medals],” Bowman said of Beijing 2008.

“Please don’t write that,” Phelps responded.

“I’m just kidding,” Bowman said.

Phelps and Bowman reminisced ahead of the U.S. Winter Nationals in Federal Way, Wash., his next meet en route to what they hope are Phelps’ fifth Olympics in eight months.

The meet runs Thursday through Saturday and will be streamed live on USASwimming.org/Nationals. NBC will air TV coverage Sunday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. ET.

“Part of what happened in 2008 is starting to set in a little bit,” said Phelps, who has said this year that he’s in better shape now that at any time since 2008 and perhaps better than in 2008. “I don’t know how long it’ll take. I never knew how long it would take, but I knew it would take some time to fully set in what really happened — eight for eight in 2008. I’m starting to feel a little bit now, but I think, probably, once I’m done and actually have the time to sit down and look back on my full career, I think it’ll really set in.”

Phelps will most certainly not try to duplicate his eight-gold performance in 2016. A six-event slate is more realistic.

This week, he will swim in Federal Way for the first time since the 2000 Spring Nationals, when a 14-year-old Phelps finished third in the 200m butterfly.

At that meet, Phelps said he ate all 21 of his meals in a seven-day stretch at the same restaurant — Mitzel’s American Kitchen — including clam chowder and cheesecake with every meal, according to his biography.

Though Phelps’ performance at that meet 15 years ago caused Bowman to first say to himself, “He’s going to make the Olympic team,” according to the biography, Phelps on Wednesday remembered the 200m fly defeat as “an absolute beatdown” and recalled his finishing time to the second.

“The thing that made me so hungry was I wanted to beat every single one of them,” Phelps said of the veterans that topped him in 2000. “Right now, I am the old man. … I’d like to not let the young bucks beat me.”

Phelps has suffered plenty of defeats this year, most to younger swimmers, but not in the races that mattered most. He clocked the fastest times in the world this year in the 100m and 200m butterflies and the 200m individual medley at the U.S. Championships in August.

Phelps said people approach him more after his comeback from a DUI arrest and treatment program last year, showing his human side in a Sports Illustrated cover story and subsequent interviews.

But the kids are still in awe.

Phelps said he walked into an elevator holding two younger swimmers earlier Wednesday, and they moved into the back corners of the vast cell.

“Am I really that scary?” Phelps, who recently moved to Arizona and trained in an Arizona State Sun Devils logo swim cap Wednesday, joked. “Are people really that afraid of me?”

As for the competition, Phelps won’t be facing his top rivals in the butterflies and individual medleys. He’ll focus on goal times, perhaps going faster than at a Minneapolis meet last month.

“It was a good place to start,” Phelps said of Minneapolis. “Bob and I know what we need to change throughout the year to be able to get to a time that I would like to get to before we go to trials.”

Phelps notched one race win over five finals in Minneapolis, beaten by younger swimmers every time.

“I notice some of the younger guys don’t have as much [early-race] speed as I do … but they just come home [at the end of the race] a lot faster than me,” he said.

When will Phelps stop trying to beat the kids and step away from swimming?

“What’s the last day of the [Rio] Olympics?” Phelps quipped. “That’s 100 percent the last one. Some of the Aussies are joking that I still have four more years because [Australian Olympic champion] Grant [Hackett]‘s still at 35 going. It’s not happening.”

FLASHBACK: Michael Phelps’ Olympic debut in 2000

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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