Latynina chides 'weak' Phelps

Michael Phelps (AFP)
Michael Phelps (AFP)

Bangkok - Gymnastics legend Larisa Latynina upbraided her fellow record-breaking Olympian Michael Phelps after a drink-driving charge which saw him slapped with a six-month suspension from swimming.

The 79-year-old Russian, whose record of 18 Olympic medals stood for 48 years until Phelps broke it in 2012, called Phelps "weak" for his arrest and subsequent suspension earlier this month.

"I really regret this fact," Latynina told reporters at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) awards show in Bangkok, where she won the prize for outstanding performance.

"Besides that, I'm really disappointed that he, being an outstanding and talented athlete, allows himself to be so weak in front of such human factors," she added, referring to the drink-driving charge.

"He definitely could have avoided this."

Phelps's suspension rules him out of next year's world championships, in an important staging post in his bid to raise his tally of 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Latynina added that she was surprised her record stood for so long - adding that she was waiting for another gymnast to come along and surpass her feats of the 1950s and 1960s.

"Modern sport is much developing rapidly, equipment is modernising rapidly, the athletes have better financial conditions," she said late on Friday.

"I can't understand, why don't they break these records straight away?" Latynina smiled.

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