OLYMPICS / Newsmaker

Phelps: Mandarin harder than winning gold

China Daily
Updated: 2008-08-20 08:42


It turns out swimming miracle Michael Phelps can achieve almost anything. But there is one thing he is still struggling to overcome - learning Chinese.

"Learning Mandarin is even harder than winning eight gold medals in the pool," said the 23-year-old American. "It is the hardest thing I've ever tried in my life."

Phelps took French and German courses when he was in primary school, but the swimming ace said Chinese is much harder to learn.

US swimmer and all-time Olympian Michael Phelps poses exclusively for the August 25, 2008 edition of Sports Illustrated in this photograph taken in Beijing, China on August, 17, 2008. [Agencies] Video: Phelps: It fells pretty good!

"The language is so tough," he said. "I started taking some Chinese lessons after learning French and German. After a while I could speak a little and understand a little. But all the words, characters and pronunciations in Mandarin are so different. All of them are hard to manage."

Asked to speak some Mandarin during the interview, Phelps laughed and said: "My accent is not good. I don't want to embarrass myself."

Phelps will be back for the London Games in 2012, where he says he wants to train for some new events to try to vary his repertoire. His next major competition will be the World Championships in Rome in 2009.

But right now, he says, the thing he needs most after his record medal haul is a nice long break.

"I will take a vacation of my own next," he said. "I have been longing for it for a very long time."

And if he gets antsy during his time off, he can always practice his Mandarin tones.

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