Ice-Cool Champ Happy To Send A Shiver
Jun 28, 2012 - Craig Lord
If Michael Phelps appears on deck sneezing on the sleeve of his fur coat tomorrow, we'll all know why: "Turn it off," cried the hottest property in town as he shivered in the arctic blast of an air-conditioning unit fit for penguins in a city melting in the high 30Cs outside the Century Link Convention Center here in Omaha.
Phelps had warmed down and then sat in a 48F ice bath as part of his multi-event recovery strategy. He suggested through a broad smile that he'd have been cosier had he stayed on ice instead of speak to the media at the end of a day that delivered a second solo victory and third solo race at London 2012 after four days of racing.
If the air was distinctly cool, the atmosphere was not, Phelps warming to the question of his impact on a sport that has grown with his success story. Eight years ago at trials for Athens 2004, a 19-year-old Phelps had cited one of his goals as being "to change the sport and have it grow".
"Its come along way," he said looking back. "Last time (2008 trials) we had a lot of people and now we have even more people standing and cheering us on. Its been amazing watching the sport grow. It can grow more and more - and hopefully it will. I will have finished the competitive part of my career but hopefully I will help take the sport to another level."
Two days before his 27th birthday, Phelps welcomed the sleep in and morning off granted to him by scratching from the 100m freestyle. For the relay in London, he was happy to "sit on 100 free from earlier in the year", while the small break had meant "my stroke felt the best its felt all week".
He added: "One of the big things is being able to have the morning off - and being able to recover. I could tell as soon as I jumped in the warm-up pool. My strokes felt more together."
A relaxing day spent joking and watching "Act of Valor" with Baltimore teammate Allison Schmitt, winner of the 200m free in a world textile best of 1:54.40, had contributed to him feeling more relaxed, said Phelps. "Its been a very relaxing day and it showed in the race. I was comfortable."
Asked about his teammate's abilities by L'Equipe, keen followers of Camille Muffat, one of the main rivals to Schmitt over 200m and previous holder of the world textile best, Phelps said: "She's awesome. I love being around her. She always makes you smile. She's very outgoing, very hardworking. I have been able to see her transform into the swimmer and person she is. I swam with her in Michigan and she then moved to Baltimore. She's not afraid of anything - its showing: she''s swimming well. Its been cool to see her."
An apt word for a man shivering in his track suit and clearly in need of a hot chocolate and woolly hat. He'll be hotter in London (as long as they keep the air-conditioning the right side of "polar" on the dial) - and over 200m butterfly, he noted, a 1:53 anything wouldn't be enough for gold, that doubtless sending a shiver down the spines of opponents who will need to race inside 1:54 and 1:53 for the first time ever to prevent him from making history.
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The US London 2012 qualifiers after four days (USA Swimming's stance on silver medallist - "Second-place finishers did not officially qualify for the team Tuesday, but will likely be added to the roster pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events").