Michael Phelps stands by his swimming race challenge to Conor McGregor

Jay Asser 11/09/2017
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Having fun with it: Michael Phelps at the Rio Olympics. Picture: Getty Images.

Michael Phelps isn’t letting retirement stop him from seeking out some fun, with the American swimming legend standing by his good-natured challenge to race Conor McGregor in the pool.

Coming on the heels of McGregor’s blockbuster bout with Floyd Mayweather in which he swapped the Octagon for a boxing ring, Phelps tweeted out a picture of him and the MMA star in a swimming cap with a challenge to race.

The tweet, posted by Phelps on August 29, has been retweeted nearly 55,000 times and has almost 128,000 likes.

“Everybody kept tweeting and retweeting that photo that I tweeted of him and I across from each other,” Phelps said in Dubai ahead of the launch of an Under Armour store at Dubai Mall on Monday. “I said it as a joke. If he wants to swim, great, I don’t care. I’ll race him.

“I would definitely exercise the option to have a conversation if he wants to swim.”

It may have started out as a joke, but when asked if he could beat McGregor in the 100 metres despite giving up a 50m head start, Phelps actually broke down his chances.

“If we did it in a year, and I trained for a year to do it, or even six months, I could probably go 48 seconds if I had to,” he said. “I don’t see him breaking a minute. So I think I could probably beat him if he had a 50m head start.”

Phelps, of course, has proven he’s up for out-of-the-box challenges, both in and out of the pool.

Just two months ago, he lost a race to a computer-generated shark, and in 2009 he swam against basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.

Phelps is also a regular on the golf course, where he’s played rounds with fellow Under Armour athlete Jordan Spieth.

“I think it’s cool. It shows just how hard it is to do other sports,” Phelps said.

“It’s cool to see athletes challenging other athletes in different sports.”

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Michael Phelps in Dubai: Swim star calls for stronger doping controls, questions work ethic of upcoming generation in sport

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Look who's in D-town: Michael Phelps.

Michael Phelps is calling on sports authorities to better police their respective disciplines, especially with regards to doping, the American swimming legend told reporters in Dubai on Monday.

Speaking ahead of the launch of an Under Armour store at Dubai Mall, Phelps discussed his views on the upcoming generation of athletes, and whether they will be up for the tremendous task of following in his footsteps, and the footsteps of other sporting icons that are departing the scene at the moment.

Phelps ended his professional swimming career after the Rio Olympics last summer, where he captured five more medals to take his total tally at the Games to 28, including a record 23 gold.

“I hope in sports over the next couple of years that we can have people that will emerge – I believe there are people out there, I feel like there has to be people out there that are hungry enough, and hopefully they’re doing it the right way,” Phelps said in Dubai on Monday.

“We talk about the Olympics, we can also talk about doping too, that’s something that has to change as well. So I think for the sports to really grow and change, I think we’re going to have to see a lot of – for me I would like to see federations step up and police certain things so we are all competing on an even playing field.”

With track icon Usain Bolt retiring earlier this summer at the London 2017 World Athletics Championships, Phelps bidding farewell to the pool in Rio, and tennis superstar Roger Federer turning 36 last month and edging closer to the end of his career, are we perhaps about to witness a lull in international sport with many all-time greats stepping away?

Bolt and Phelps have both retired from their sports within the last 13 months.

Bolt and Phelps have both retired from their sports within the last 13 months.

“For me, in my generation, in my sport career I think I’ve been lucky to see some of the greatest athletes in their respective sports. You think of where sports are right now, the best of the best have just been crushing records,” said the 32-year-old from Maryland.

“I think in some sports you see kids that aren’t hungry that want to go out and do different things. You see a lot of up and coming athletes so I think sports will forever change. I think for me the one frustrating thing that I see in my sport, in swimming, is there are some people that I think feel that they deserve to be given something instead of working at it and that frustrates me because I know how hard it is to get to the top.

“It’s easy to get the top, it’s harder to stay there. So I think once people get there, I think they kind of lose sight on what it takes to stay there or how hard it is to stay there.”

Stay tuned for more from Phelps’ insightful and revealing conversation in the UAE.

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Egyptian triathlete Omar Nour's Atlantic Row preparations in full-swing

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Getting ready for ultimate test: Omar Nour.

Dubai-based Egyptian triathlete Omar Nour has completed an epic 48-hour indoor row in preparation for his Atlantic Row challenge later this year.

Nour, who will embark on a 5,000 kilometre row across the Atlantic Ocean with adventurer Omar Samra in December, revved up his fitness preparations with a testing workout at Warehouse Gym in Al Quoz.

The 38-year-old began the rowing machine endurance effort last Thursday (at 14:00 on July 27) and finished up on Saturday afternoon (July 29) – completing around 315km, a distance that equates to roughly 6.3 per cent of the overall total he and his partner will have to conquer doing the real thing.

Chalk markings were made on the gym floor surrounding Nour and his rowing machine to mimic the size of the vessel Team 02 will use in the challenge – which is approximately 7.5m long x 1.8m wide, and built of wood, fibre glass, carbon fibre and Kevlar.

Indeed, he wasn’t allowed to go beyond these parameters during the row and up until two months ago, had not rowed for longer than 10 minutes.

“This has helped me immensely in my preparation. I knew I was doing this for 48 hours and not 40 days – the anticipated time the challenge could take –and I underestimated the pacing at the start,” the world’s fastest Arabic-speaking triathlete, who has put on 15kg of muscle through his intense training regime, told Sport360.

“It taught me it’s not just about the rowing, but about the recovery and how quickly you get your chores done on the boat, as well as trying to get as much sleep as possible, hydrate and eat the right things.”

On Sunday, Nour travels to Egypt to meet up with Samra and they plan to train together on the River Nile.

It’s there where they will work alongside each other for the first time on the water before the Egyptian duo head to the UK for further testing and course work.

He added: “It doesn’t matter how hard you can row, you can’t fight the elements and nature – so you have to understand it and use it to your advantage, so that’s the next step for us and to continue the hard work we’re doing physically.”

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