Michael Phelps keeps close eye on swimming’s new international stars

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps believes time is ticking on his last remaining individual world record.

Phelps has held the world record in the 400m individual medley since 2002. His lowered it eight times total, ultimately to 4 minutes, 3.84 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“Hopefully, maybe fingers crossed, I’m going to be greedy and try to keep that record for one more year,” he said in a sitdown interview in France on Thursday.

Nobody swum within a second of it until this past June. That’s when France’s Léon Marchand, a 20-year-old pupil of Phelps’ career-long coach Bob Bowman, rattled Phelps’ time. He went under world record pace through 350 meters before falling 44 hundredths shy of it at the world championships.

“I’m excited to see a kid come up and challenge that record,” Phelps said. “That’s what I want. I would love that.”

Marchand is a student-athlete at Arizona State. Phelps lives in Arizona. Marchand said at worlds in June that they have not met, but they have messaged.

“He reminds me a lot of myself with the competitiveness when you get into it, kind of a dogfight in a race,” Phelps said. “He doesn’t lose many of those.”

The ultra-competitive Phelps may have motivation for his world record to last one more year. If it makes it through next June, he will break the record for longest time holding the world record in an individual Olympic swimming event since World War II, according to Swimming Stats.

The next world championships are in July. Marchand is also preparing for an experience that Phelps never had — a home Olympics in Paris in 2024.

“To be able to swim here, on your home soil, I will say I am jealous,” Phelps said.

Phelps believes another world record is on borrowed time — the 200m freestyle held by German Paul Biedermann since 2009 (1:42.00).

“If there’s one person on the planet that goes under 1:42 in the 200m free, it’s probably Popovici,” he said.

Phelps was referring to David Popovici, the Romanian phenom who just turned 18, one month after breaking a 13-year-old world record in the 100m free (46.86). Over three meets this summer, Popovici swam six of the 20 fastest 100m free times in history.

“I mean, the kid went 46.9, 47.0, 47.0, 47.1, 47.1, 47.2 in the 100m frees this year,” Phelps said. “I pay attention to all that stuff.”

In his Olympic debut in Tokyo, Popovici finished higher in the 200m free (fourth) than the 100m (seventh).

Last month, he swam the fourth-fastest 200m free time in history — 1:42.97. That was one hundredth off Phelps’ personal best in the event, which Phelps dubbed his best race of his eight-gold-medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Games.

“To see somebody swim as efficiently as he does, his stroke is very good,” Phelps said. “It’s just a matter of time before he gets even stronger and swims even faster.”

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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.