Wonder where your favorite swimmers have been hiding since Beijing? Or if anyone recognizes Jason Lezak outside of the pool? We did, too, so we headed to USA Swimming's fifth annual Golden Goggle Awards dinner at the New York Hilton last night. NBC sportscaster Bob Costas served as the MC as the 200-plus attendees honored the individual and team performances of USA Swimming's stellar season.
Magician David Blaine, a presenter, stopped at various tables to perform magic tricks throughout the evening. Michael Phelps was blown away by Blaines' quarter-bending trick and showed Coach Bob Bowman the evidence. "I've never seen anything like that," Phelps gushed, holding up the slightly bent pocket change.
Donald Trump, also a presenter, handed out the award for the best male athlete. No surprise here, the award went to Phelps, his third of the night. With his mom Debbie and sister Hilary in tow, Michael thanked his supporting cast and said he was "looking forward to the next four years."
Women's swimmer Rebecca Soni was also a multiple award winner, including Breakout Performer of the Year.
Two tables over from Phelps sat fellow gold medalist Ryan Lochte, dressed in a striped tux with red button-up shirt. Since Beijing, Lochte said he's traveled all over the U.S. and that New York City's Fashion Week was his favorite stop. Asked about his fave designer, Lochte said he's a Calvin Klein guy. He also predicted the Florida Gators (his alma mater) as a lock for the SEC Championship (in a win over Alabama) as well as the BCS Championship (triumphing over Texas Tech).
Speaking of football, former New York Giant Tiki Barber presented the award for Relay Performance of the Year. When asked for his Super Bowl pick, Barber said that after so many years in the league, he learned that it's "too early to tell," and that you can never predict how things will shake out, citing the 1999 season as proof. "The Denver Broncos were undefeated; we never should've beaten that team," Barber says.
Triple Beijing medalist Katie Hoff, who lost her voice because of a bad cold, said she's already back in the water and back at school. But Jason Lezak, whose famous out-freestyling of the French saved Phelps' quest for eight in the 4x400 relay, said he hasn't had much time in the water because of all of his public appearances. He also said that while he owns a DVD copy of his relay leg, "it's not like I watch it every day. It's shown so often at the appearances I go to that I don't need to."
Gold medalist Cullen Jones has stayed busy working in conjunction with USA Swimming's Make a Splash Foundation, which promotes teaching children, particularly African-American children, how to swim. His first stop this fall was Philadelphia, and he says that possibly Raleigh, NC (Jones went to NC State) or the New York area (where he grew up) may be next.
Aaron Piersol said the highlight of the last few months was attending his first NASCAR race in North Carolina. As the honorary host, Piersol announced, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" at the beginning of the race. Also ranking high on his list was getting to play tennis at the US Open and meeting some of the tournament's stars.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL PHELPS
Mag.com: You shaved your goatee?
Michael Phelps: I actually had a mustache yesterday. I just clipped it. It wasn't a full shave. I had a full mustache yesterday and I figured I should look clean and presentable for my mom if I'm dressing up.
When we spoke last, you said you had only worked out twice since the Olympics and it was the most painful practice ever. Have you started working out yet?
I've been doing some cross training things. I've been running a little bit, playing some soccer and racquetball. I've swam a few other times, but besides that I haven't been doing much.
Are you still single or are you dating around?
I'm still single. I am single.
What's better about being a player than being tied down?
I just don't like having anything to worry about. I like not having a commitment and being able to do whatever I want to do.
You don't like the baggage.
(Laughs) Noooo baggage.
If there is one celebrity you'd want to date who would it be?
It's hard to say. There's so many gorgeous people out there. Megan Fox is pretty cute from Transformers. She's pretty hot.
Did you see her on the GQ cover?
I saw her there and she was on another one. I have the GQ one. I read the GQ one.
Not much reading probably. What else have you been up to lately?
Traveling around, seeing some friends, sleeping late, being lazy. That's about it.
When do you plan to get back into the swing of things?
I'm going to start doing some things on my own coming up. Slowly get back into it and gradually build myself back into some kind of shape so when I do get back into it hard in January, I'm not completely out of it.