By Mary Milliken
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – A big round purple bruise on his right shoulder, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps emerged from the pool in his qualifying heat for the 200-meter butterfly on Monday feeling the aches and the toll of late-night races in his fifth Olympics.
After winning his 19th gold on Sunday night in the 4×100 freestyle, the most decorated Olympian of all time could only muster a fifth place in the qualifying heats for the butterfly semi-finals later on Monday. Phelps, 31, holds both the World and Olympic records in 200-meter butterfly.
The bruises on his right shoulder and upper back were evidence of his fondness for cupping, an ancient Chinese healing practice.
He said he’s been cupping for some time, before almost every meet, but the trainer went full bore on him and left some of the worst bruises in some time. The right shoulder, he said with a bit of a wince, “is where I hurt the most.”
Coming out of retirement in 2014 after a stint in rehab following his second drunk driving arrest, Phelps said the quick turnarounds between the late-night races tailor-made for U.S. television and the early afternoon heats the next day are tough.
He got massages, ice baths, heat applications to flush the lactic acid out of his muscles along with eating a pound of spaghetti, a food he is not keen on and had to force down.
“I guess I got to sleep at 3 a.m. and I was on an 11 a.m. bus. Quick turnarounds,” Phelps told reporters.
It’s back to his Rio de Janeiro home then for a quick nap, before he returns on Monday night for his butterfly semi-final, where he will be looking to make it to the final on Tuesday and avenge his defeat in the event four years ago to defending Olympic champion Chad le Clos of South Africa.
Clos, now 24, eclipsed Phelps in London in 2012.
(Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Alan Baldwin)