Getty Images

Michael Phelps joins gold medalists in swim race, but no comeback

2 Comments

CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Phelps pumped his right fist upon completing the final leg for the winning relay team ahead of Australian great Grant Hackett on Saturday.

It was another golden moment for the winningest Olympic athlete in history, though don’t expect to see him competing on the world’s biggest stage again.

Phelps all but slammed the door on another return after leaving it ever-so slightly ajar in an interview with The Associated Press last month.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I think four years ago, I wasn’t. I think being able to come back and being able to finish how I did and being able to get back to where I wanted to get to – for me, at this point in my life and in my career, that’s all I can ask for. Right?” he said.

“I wanted to have a chance to kind of shut out the `what if’ 20 years down the road. Now, I think 20 years down the road I think I’ll be able to look back and say I’m really happy that I took that opportunity to come back and swim in one more (Olympics).”

Phelps was considering a comeback when he attended the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. By the time it ended, there was no doubt in his mind he would be competing in his fifth Olympics.

In Rio de Janeiro last summer, he got the closure he needed. And if that’s it for him, he sure went out in style.

At age 31, Phelps captured five more gold medals, bringing his total to 23, along with a silver. He swam the second leg in the 4x100m freestyle relay in his final race and put the United States out front for good against a powerful field that included defending champion France, Australia and Russia.

The stakes weren’t quite as high on Saturday.

Phelps was in Chicago to announce a partnership between his foundation and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to promote safety in the pool.

Phelps and fellow Olympians Allison Schmitt and Hackett gave members of the Special Olympics Chicago Aquatics team and children from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago swimming lessons, and the three also swam final legs of a relay race with the Special Olympians.

He also addressed the participants and fielded questions from them before signing autographs and taking a big group selfie.

Retirement, he insisted, is suiting him just fine.

“I’m retiring because it’s time to move on,” Phelps said. “I spent most of my life in the swimming pool. … I have some other goals that I want to accomplish outside of the pool. It’s not the end of my swimming career, it’s the start of something else. I’ll always be around the pool. I’ll always be around the sport. I’m ready to move on. Sometimes, it just happens.”

He’s enjoying spending more time with his wife Nicole and their 1-year-old son Boomer. He has a new sponsorship deal with Colgate in which he’s promoting water conservation and he travels frequently for his various business interests and causes.

“I have no desire to swim 14,000 to 15,000 yards in a day,” Phelps said, referring to his training regimen. “That just doesn’t sound fun to me. I went to swim meets and I was just like, `I’m really happy I’m watching and not competing.”‘

Phelps said he swam 300 yards on Friday. It was his first time in the pool in about a month. Compare that to a training regimen of swimming about 40 to 60 miles a week.

“For 15 years, that’s a long time,” he said. “I want to have my body when Boomer’s 10. I’d like to be able to have shoulders that work; they’re not all banged up from all the training.

“It’s just time for me to move on and spend more time with the family – but also be able to work more directly with the foundation. Working more with mental health. Being able to do all these things that I’m so passionate about, that can change or help somebody’s life.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Usain Bolt ready for tears as retirement nears

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

 

 

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!