Michael Phelps’ formula after late-night finals: pound pasta, sleep

Phelps' formula after late-night finals: pound pasta, sleep

Michael Phelps

RIO DE JANEIRO — With the Olympic swimming finals ending in the early morning hours, Michael Phelps has a quick turnaround before he’s due back at the pool.

The 19-time gold medalist packs a lot into his scant off-time: massages, ice baths, eating and some all-important sleep.

After helping the U.S. win the 4×100-meter freestyle relay on Sunday night, Phelps returned to the athletes village and chowed down.

“I think I had a pound of pasta and spaghetti,” he said. “And I’m not a spaghetti fan but I forced myself to eat it.”

Then he went to bed at around 3 a.m. and climbed back on an 11 a.m. bus headed to the pool for Monday’s preliminaries.

Phelps qualified fifth in the 200m butterfly heats with a time of 1 minute, 55.73 seconds in his first individual event in Rio.

“I’ve been a little off on my predictions to make it into semis and finals,” he said. “I was thinking 1:57 would be good this morning, but I saw a couple of 55s and wanted to be somewhere at the front of the heat.”

Top qualifier Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary clocked 1:54.73 and his teammate, Laszlo Cseh, was second in 1:55.14.

Phelps’ appearance on deck drew the loudest cheers and most excitement among the fans. They stood to take photos of him and he lingered in the pool after his heat, the last man to climb out. He waved to the stands.

Then it was back on the bus for a return trip to his room and an afternoon nap.

“The good thing is that we have a long time between prelims and finals,” he said.

Katie Ledecky beat Phelps to bed by about 15 minutes after winning the 400m free in world-record time Sunday.

“That was probably going to be my hardest swim of the week so I’m glad it’s over with,” she said. “I was planning on sleeping until about 10, but I woke up around 8:30 and just stayed up. I just woke up thinking about last night.”

Ledecky is attempting a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles for the first time since the 1968 Olympics.

“I feel like every year at the big championship meets, my stroke just feels as good as it ever has,” she said. “Once I get going, it’s kind of hard to stop.”

Ledecky’s quiet confidence is in stark contrast to teammate Missy Franklin, who raced for the first time at the Rio de Janeiro Games on Monday. Franklin qualified 12th in the 200m free heats and will need to be faster in the semifinals to ensure a spot in the eight-woman final.

“I’m so not used to waiting until Day 3 to swim,” she said. “That’s the fastest I’ve been in prelims in a while. The thing is, everyone else really brought it this morning, too.”

Four years ago in London, Franklin claimed five medals — four gold — and became a darling of the Games. Instead of turning pro immediately, she swam in college for two years before jumping to the pro ranks last year.

“I don’t remember nearly as much of 2012 as I thought I did,” she said. “It’s been awesome coming back here and just kind of accepting the expectations I have now, and knowing that’s just to do my best.”

Phelps isn’t as busy at the Rio Olympics as Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, nicknamed “The Iron Lady” for her ambitious event schedule.

She topped the 200m individual medley heats with a time of 2:07.45. She will be busy Monday night, competing in the 100m back final at 10:30 p.m. and returning 66 minutes later for the 200m IM semifinals.

Hosszu opened the eight-day swimming competition on Saturday by winning the 400 individual medley in a world-record time.

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