Catching Up With Michael Phelps

The Olympic icon on how he keeps his head above water (Christ, we hate ourselves for writing that sentence).

The Olympic icon on how he keeps his head above water (Christ, we hate ourselves for writing that sentence).

Michael Phelps is enjoying a little downtime: dating the lovely Megan Rossee, pitching Subway footlongs, honing his golf game. We caught up with him as he trains for his next challenge – cheering on his sister at next month’s New York City Marathon. Here are five things we learned about the greatest Olympian of all time.

1 – He drew his inspiration from the hardcourt

“My biggest sports hero? Michael Jordan. Because he became the best and never let anything – being injured or sick – stand in his way or stop him from doing what he wanted to do. What he did for the sport of basketball I want to do for swimming. After 20 years of looking up to him, I met him recently, and I was more starstruck than I’ve ever been in my life.”

2 – He doesn’t like to think

“I’m improving on the golf course, but it’s something I’m not used to. Whenever I swim, I don’t think about anything. When I have a golf shot, I have to think about all these small things: the grip, the takeaway, opening or closing the clubface: There’s so much going on in my head.”

3 – He didn’t really eat like a sumo wrestler while training for theOlympics

“That’s a myth. Someone wrote that I ate 8,000 or 12,000 calories a day and suddenly it’s all over the place. It’s not true. Although when I was training I could have anything I wanted, whenever I wanted it. Now I have to be a little more conscious about what I eat, getting all the nutrients I need to stay healthy and replenish. The Subway people have actually helped me with that.”

4 – He’s no Apolo Anton Ohno

Last year his fellow multiple gold medal winner took off his speed skates and ran the New York Marathon. But Phelps won’t be similarly shedding the Speedo anytime soon. “I love competing, but take me out of the water and things are different. I’ll go for a short run as part of my workouts. But running 26 miles? There’s no shot.”

5 – Dude still likes to swim a little bit

“I’ve probably been in the pool more this year after the Olympics than I was for the last two Olympics. But it’s on my own. It’s nothing anyone’s forcing me to do. It makes me feel good and blocks everything out.” Indeed, he agreed to swim a few laps for the assembled media, and 20 minutes later he had effectively blocked everybody out and was still effortlessly gliding through his laps as the natatorium emptied out. Who knows? He may still be in that pool now.

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