Shaq to Spar With Phelps Sunday

The athletes will race Sunday at Loyola College

By Asha Beh
|  Sunday, Aug 23, 2009  |  Updated 9:55 AM CDT
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If height is a factor, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps might not have a chance against basketball star Shaquille O'Neil today.

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Baltimore -- There could be another edge for the man who said he's known around Orlando as "Shaq-mu" (like the whale Shamu, get it?).

When Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps met up with Shaquille O'Neal Saturday at The Rusty Scupper restaurant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor for the "Shaq VS." TV show "news conference," he was sporting a rather large walking boot.

The black boot covers Phelps' right foot entirely and goes almost all the way up to his knee. He injured his right ankle in a car accident a little more than a week ago.

Phelps was driving with an invalid, out-of-state license Aug. 13 when another driver ran a red light, causing the accident, according to Baltimore police.

"I've been in the water this week. Everything is precautionary. Nothing major. I can still train and everything," he said Saturday.

Phelps added with a smile: "I'm actually trying to get in Shaq's head with the boot a little bit. He doesn't know if it's real or fake. I kind of have that working to my advantage."

We hope so, because Phelps already has another handicap -- he has to finish two lengths of the pool at Loyola College of Maryland before O'Neal finishes one.  

As part of the show, O'Neal competes against professional athletes in other sports after negotiating a handicap and receiving a week of training in the sport. And it's Phelps' own coach, Bob Bowman, who has been prepping the NBA star.

While the 7-foot-1, 325-pound O'Neal — about 9 inches taller and 125 heavier than Phelps — did not say whether he will be outfitted in goggles and flippers Sunday, the Big Fin did offer this tidbit: "I'm wearing the same suit he wore in the Olympics. It might take me an hour and a half to get into it, but I'm going to wear it."

Sunday's taped episode is scheduled to air on Sept. 15. 

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