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Michael Phelps, under an alias, finds new competitive outlet; Q&A

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NEW YORK — Michael Phelps sat down for a Q&A on Thursday while visiting to promote Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts campaign …

(condensed and lightly edited)

OlympicTalk: I watched your CNBC interview today, and you mentioned being on the bike. It reminded me of a Men’s Journal interview you did last year where you mentioned doing a competitive spin class. Is biking your primary form of exercise now?

PHELPS: It’s all I do. I pound it. I went 30 straight days on the bike. (Pulls out phone to look up statistics) 500 miles in 30 days, 1,100 minutes and 28,000 calories. I was just basically at the point I just was like, I’m just going to grind for a month and see what happens. Somebody said, what are you going to do after that month? Probably keep going. I like having that competition on the bike. I ride a Peloton, so I ride in classes. I have an alias. No one knows it’s me.

That’s something that gets me going because I know how it was in the pool. If I didn’t feel well, if I was tired, this or that, I knew I still had to do it. For me, having that leaderboard on the right-hand side of the screen that tells me where I am in the list drives me a little bit. So it’s now basically I’m probably top five, top 10 percent every single time I’m in there. I just try to push myself. The biggest thing for me now being retired, I know how important it is for me to get that energy out, to be the best version of myself. So I make sure I have to get a workout in six or seven days a week. I mean, I was up this morning at 5:15 to get a workout.

I’d like to get back into lifting a little bit, put some more muscle on, but I’m still not getting back [to competitive swimming], so don’t ask.

Editor’s Note: Thirty straight days of cycling 30 to 60 minutes is nothing for Phelps. For years as a swimmer, he practiced every day. Including Christmas. Including his birthday (sometimes twice on his birthday).

OlympicTalk: Since you brought it up, I have to make sure, you’re not in the drug-testing pool, right?

PHELPS: No. I don’t think I’ll ever get back in that thing.

Editor’s Note: U.S. swimmers who re-enter the drug-testing pool to unretire must wait nine months before returning to competition. Since Phelps is not in the testing pool now, even if he wanted to race this year, he would not be eligible until 2019 in the unforeseen scenario he feels the itch to come back.

OlympicTalk: I’ve never seen you leaner than in yesterday’s Instagram photo.

PHELPS: I’m back around 190 pounds (187 the last time on a scale). I’m less than what I was in Rio, but that’s basically all muscle that I’ve lost. I’ve kept on top of it because, for me, it’s all I know. Basically 20-plus years in the sport, working out every single day. I know how much happier I am when I’m in good shape. I love it. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. It’s that craziness that I have in my head that I have to work out every day.

OlympicTalk: Any competitive goals in cycling that would cause you to enter a race?

PHELPS: If I could do a triathlon and not do the run, I would instantly do it. Swimming is easy. I still swim a couple of times a month just to get in and splash and see the sun, but I don’t think so [cycling]. I would get my [butt] kicked on the bike. Some of those guys are ridiculous on the road. I wanted to start riding on the road, but I’m not going to get the kind of resistance that I get on my stationary bike. The workout’s going to be different. I love what I do, to be able to sit and take 45 minutes to 90 minutes to be able to get a workout in, get a bike in, to stretch, do some abs outside and call it a day, I’m good.

OlympicTalk: The last time you were here, you mentioned an American swimmer was thinking about a comeback. Was that Allison Schmitt, and what do you think of her coming back this weekend?

PHELPS (nods head): I’m excited for her. She is a sister of mine, and for her being able to come to that point where she knows that she wants to do something to make herself happy and be able to finish how she wants. For me, going through that in 2016, kind of looking back now, two years later, I’m happy I did it. I’m very happy I was able to finish how I wanted to. That’s what I hope for her. I hope she can get to that place. We talk every day about certain little small things that can help her. It will be interesting to see where she’s at this week. I have no idea what to expect. I mean, I’ve heard some things she’s been doing in training. She seems to be having some fun. I know she’s going through some struggles. I just told to her keep grinding. It’s going to get better. It’s going to get easier. Trust me. I went through this. I know. She just wants to get up and race and just do it for her. I’m happy that she’s doing it for the right reasons.

OlympicTalk: We’re coming up on a big anniversary for your career this summer. When I say Beijing Olympics, what’s the first image that pops into your head?

PHELPS: Probably the definition of, like, a perfect meet. ‘07, ‘08 were the two greatest years of my career. So being able to look back and see a lifetime dream, goal of doing something nobody’s ever seen in the Olympic world or swimming in general. It’s what I wanted as a kid. It’s what I dreamed of as a kid. Being able to take Nicole and Booms there after Rio was cool. Going back down those memories and watching some of those races and having some of those moments back into my head was so cool.

Talking about Schmitty, that’s something that I forced her to do. We went back and watched a bunch of different races, trying to pick up on certain stroke things, body position that I had in ‘08 or so many of those swimmers had in ‘08.

OlympicTalk: You mentioned in an Instagram from your return to Beijing, sorry, Nicole and Boomer, for all the tears.

PHELPS: It was emotional being there [in 2016]. It was cool because she wasn’t there [in 2008]. We never really talked about it. Just the moment where I was standing on the blocks. I stood behind every single lane I was in. Did the same walk through when I was walking back through the mixed zone and walking back to the warm-up pool. Just a lot of memories came up. That’s what I prepared for. That whole career was to do something nobody has else had done before. To be able to have that opportunity right in front of my face and to relive all of those memories again, of course brought back tears. Tears of joy to be able to share it with my family.

OlympicTalk: When you stood behind those blocks, which race came back to your mind first?

PHELPS: It’s hard not to bring up the 100 ‘fly [beating Milorad Cavic by one hundredth of a second]. That one, and the close ones you have to bring up first. The French relay was pretty ridiculous, probably one of the greatest relays ever [with Jason Lezak overtaking Alain Bernard on anchor]. The individuals, the 100 ‘fly and probably the 200 free. I think, before Rio, that was probably my greatest race ever. Probably my greatest race ever in my opinion was the 200 ‘fly in Rio. That was the most pain I’ve ever been in. That was the one I wanted the most.

OlympicTalk: Did you save anything from Beijing other than the medals, like the goggles that slipped from the 200 butterfly or a picture of the close finish from the 100 butterfly?

PHELPS: We have photos that we’re putting up when we move into a different house. There are just so many cool moments and memories from that, from those Games. I have every piece of clothing from all Olympics. Going back and looking through some of that stuff is pretty crazy. The goggles, I’m sure I have. I have every suit, every cap that I’ve ever worn in international competition saved, archived. Nothing really stands out, though.

I guess the medals are incredible to look at. Boomer doesn’t really like them, though. I put one around his neck. He didn’t seem too interested in it. He took it right off and handed it right back to me.

OlympicTalk: You’ve been promoting the Every Drop Counts campaign for a while now? What’s the message you’re here to send today?

PHELPS: It has been really cool over the last year or so when people do come up, and they’re like, I think of you when I brush my teeth in the morning, I have to turn the water off. I think it is making a difference of what we are trying to say and what we’re trying to help people understand. Really just, still, being able to think that when you do brush your teeth, that’s four gallons you’re wasting, 64 glasses of water. That’s something so important now, having two kids, whether it’s putting a little sticker that turns red when the water’s on too long for Boomer, for him to see it, for him to learn, it’s kind of cool. He’s at that stage where he picks up and grabs every little small thing that we do and say. That’s something that Nicole and I are really trying to teach him, and hopefully he can pass on to Becks [2-month-old son Beckett].

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VIDEO: Kobe Bryant tries to coax Michael Phelps to unretire

Loena Hendrickx on the rise, making Grand Prix debut at Skate America

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Belgian teenager Loena Hendrickx made her Winter Olympic debut in PyeongChang, and began her short program with the aim of becoming the first from her country to qualify for a ladies’ singles free skate since Katrien Pauwels in 1988.

Fresh off a 14th place finish in the men’s event, brother Jorik sat in the stands. He looked away as the music – a cool arrangement of Madonna’s “Frozen” – began, and covered his eyes as the 18-year-old set up for a planned triple lutz, triple toe combination.

Eight years younger than her two-time Olympian elder brother, Hendrickx knew the feeling.

“I get nervous when he competes, too,” she explained after winning a bronze medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy, an ISU Challenger Series event. “I might be even more nervous watching him than when I have to skate myself, because I don’t know how he’s feeling on the ice, and I can’t control his skate.”

She ultimately landed the combination – albeit under-rotated – and bested Pauwels’ result from Calgary by one place, finishing 16th overall. Even stronger skates were to come at the world championships in Milan, where she beat reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova in the free skate to earn a Top 10 total score and qualify for her first-ever Grand Prix events in the upcoming season.

“I’m very excited because that’s something you wish for. The first one is immediately in Skate America, so it’s very exciting. I’ve never been to the States before!”

Jorik was initially scheduled to skate alongside his sister at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., but opted to withdraw and spend the start of the season working with other athletes, including Loena.

“He is working with me sometimes. I really can learn a lot from him because he has the knowledge and experience. I think he can teach me a lot.”

While the siblings work primarily with coach Carine Herrygers, Jorik assisted Loena in selecting her “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” short program music, another ’90s hit by Céline Dion.

“I really liked my program [“The Prayer” by Dion and Josh Groban] from two years ago, and so I think I chose the same style. I researched more of her music, and it was my brother who found this song. I didn’t like it at the beginning because I had another song I liked more.

“In the end, Jorik convinced me to take this one because it’s more powerful and I can skate better to powerful music.”

Hendrickx debuted the program in Oberstdorf, earning personal best scores to make the podium alongside Zagitova and Mai Mihara. More importantly, she achieved her pre-season goal of landing the lutz-toe combination – with positive Grades of Execution – in both phases of the competition.

While most of her competitors made waves as juniors, the Belgian struggled with multiple injuries – a 2016 stress fracture in her back, later a bone bruise on her landing knee – that kept her from eliciting the buzz many top skaters get on the Junior Grand Prix.

“After I healed, I was very happy to begin building back up again. For a long time, I worked on my fitness to make my back and body stronger. That made my jumps stronger and helped me perform better, more consistently.”

In a field that includes two-time world medalist Satoko Miyahara and U.S. national champion Bradie Tennell, Hendrickx heads to Skate America armed with a competitive technical arsenal, and a dose of inspiration imparted by her brother on the ice.

“In Belgium, there are fewer opportunities to be successful when you’re younger because it’s very difficult to combine skating with school. Jorik taught me that you never have to give up on your dreams. If you work hard, you’ll see where you can go.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Chris Mazdzer adds doubles luge after Olympic medal

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Olympic luge silver medalist Chris Mazdzer is doubling up this winter.

Mazdzer has decided to compete in both singles and doubles in World Cup events, in large part because USA Luge didn’t have another option to partner with Olympic doubles veteran Jayson Terdiman.

If the Americans didn’t have a senior doubles team ready for the World Cup, they wouldn’t have been able to compete in team relays this winter — and Terdiman effectively would have been forced into retirement.

“It’s a lot of motivation,” Mazdzer said Monday from Lake Placid, New York, where he and Terdiman took five training runs together at Mount Van Hoevenberg on the season’s opening day for sliding at USA Luge’s home track. “I like when people are like, ‘Chris, you won’t be able to do that.’ This hasn’t been done successfully in two-plus decades. But why not now?”

The move also brings Mazdzer back to his roots. He and Terdiman were successful as a junior team, medaling twice at world championships and winning USA Luge’s team-of-the-year honors for the 2007-08 season.

“It could be something,” Terdiman said. “We’re hoping we’re able to find that magic. It’s asking a lot, but we have a lot of confidence in our own abilities.”

Mazdzer became the first American men’s singles luge athlete to win an Olympic medal, grabbing the silver at the PyeongChang Games earlier this year. Terdiman is a two-time Olympian in doubles, going in 2014 with Christian Niccum and this year with Matt Mortensen. Niccum retired after the 2014 Olympics, and Mortensen retired after PyeongChang.

So Terdiman spent the summer without a partner, and a couple of hours before former USA Luge teammate Megan Sweeney’s wedding, he and Mazdzer got together for coffee.

“I thought about retirement a lot this summer,” Terdiman said. “It was going to be forced if I didn’t have anybody to slide with, and that was a very real thing until Chris and I sat down a couple hours before Megan’s wedding. We talked about him doing both. The confidence he has in himself is very large. He’s going to give it a shot and we’ll see what happens.”

Mazdzer understands that this means he will have a most unusual winter.

There are nine World Cup races this season, and six of those call for the men’s race and the doubles race to be contested on the same day — so Mazdzer will be logging very long hours at the track. There also were International Luge Federation rules to consider about training runs; sliders typically get five or six runs at a track before a World Cup, and Mazdzer will be permitted to get the full allotment of training in both disciplines.

“I’m really pumped about this,” Mazdzer said. “Having the team relay is a huge part of being on the U.S. team. I want to see the U.S. win team relays. I think we’re capable. We have a fantastic team and if doubles works out, we’ve got a shot.”

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