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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

Pole vaulter, 84, sets her sights on more records

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn’t putting her pole down anytime soon.

Flo Filion Meiler left Thursday for the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor in Poland, where she’ll compete in events including the long jump, 60-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, pentathlon and pole vault, for which she’s the shoo-in.

The petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont, said she feels more like 70 than nearly 85.

“But you know, I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I’ve been training six days a week because I knew I would really get my body in shape,” she said last week, after track and field training at the University of Vermont.

But she literally won’t have any competition in the pole vault in the championships, which runs March 24-31 in Torun, Poland. She is the only one registered in her age group, 80-84, for the sport, for which she set a world record at age 80. In the men’s pole vault, nine men are listed as competing in that age group.

Meiler said she the events she likes the best are the hurdles and the pole vault – one of the more daring track and field events, in which competitors run while carrying a fiberglass or composite pole, brace it against the ground to launch themselves over a high bar, and land on a mat.

“You really have to work at that,” she said. “You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it’s challenging.”

Meiler is used to hard work. She grew up on a dairy farm, where she helped her father with the chores, feeding the cattle and raking hay. In school, she did well at basketball, took tap and ballroom dancing, and, living near Lake Champlain, she water skied.

Meiler, who worked for 30 years as a sales representative for Herbalife nutritional supplements, and her husband, Eugene, who was a military pilot and then became a financial analyst, together competed in water skiing.

“Many times when I did water ski competition I was the only gal in my age group,” she said.

She’s a relative newcomer to pole vaulting and track and field, overall. At age 60, she was competing in doubles tennis with her husband in a qualifying year at the Vermont Senior Games when a friend encouraged her to try the long jump because competitors were needed.

“That was the beginning of my track career,” she said, standing in a room of her home, surrounded by hundreds of hanging medals. She took up pole vaulting at 65.

Athletics has helped her though some hard times, she said. She and her husband adopted three children after losing two premature biological babies and a 3-year-old. Two years ago, their son died at age 51.

And she desperately misses her training partner, a woman who started having health problems about five years ago and can no longer train. It’s tough to train alone, she said, and she hopes to find a new partner.

“She’s incredibly serious about what she does,” said Meiler’s coach, Emmaline Berg. “She comes in early to make sure she’s warmed up enough. She goes home and stretches a lot. So she pretty much structures her entire life around being a fantastic athlete, which is remarkable at any age, let alone hers.”

And it has paid off, said Berg, an assistant track coach at Vermont.

Berg herself first started following Meiler 10 years ago while she was a student at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, watching her at the annual Dartmouth Relays.

“She was like a local celebrity,” she said.

Setting a record at age 80 with a 6-foot (1.8-meter) pole vault at the USA Track and Field Adirondack Championships in Albany, New York, while her husband watched, Meiler said, was one of her happiest days.

“I was screaming, I was so happy,” she said.

The overall world record for women’s pole vaulting is 16.6 feet (5.6 meters), according to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Meiler turns 85 in June, when she’ll head to the National Senior Games in New Mexico.

That will put her in a new age group, in which she hopes to set even more records.

Meiler’s athletic achievements are remarkable and something to be celebrated, said Dr. Michael LaMantia, director of the University of Vermont Center on Aging.

Pole vaulting clearly isn’t for everyone of her age, but in general, activity should be, LaMantia said.

“She can serve as a role model for other seniors,” he said.

Amateur boxing president steps aside during IOC inquiry

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Olympic boxing under investigation by the IOC, the president of the sport’s governing body said on Friday he was stepping aside to let an interim leader take charge.

Gafur Rakhimov sai d he was not resigning as AIBA president, however, and did not call for new elections.

Rakhimov’s status on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list as an alleged heroin trafficker is part of an inquiry by an International Olympic Committee-appointed panel.

The panel will update the IOC executive board next week in Lausanne, Switzerland. AIBA could be derecognized by IOC members in June.

The IOC halted planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic boxing tournaments and blocked AIBA officials from contacting organizers in Japan.

“The allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies,” Rakhimov said. “I trust that the truth will prevail. Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above boxing, and as president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.”

Under AIBA statutes, an interim president is picked from among the five vice-presidents, who include several Rakhimov supporters. The executive committee is due to meet by telephone this weekend. The interim leader can serve only a maximum 365 days before fresh elections, however, meaning that arrangement can’t last through to the Tokyo Olympics.

When Rakhimov was elected last year, his supporters pushed for a plan to allow the president to step aside while still retaining key influence and being able to return at any time, but that was defeated.

It’s not clear if Rakhimov’s departure would be enough to calm the IOC, which has also criticized AIBA over how fights are judged, anti-doping measures, and its debts.

The IOC could try to host an Olympic boxing tournament without AIBA, and some national boxing officials have tried to form a group which could help the IOC stage the event.