At the end of August, the Dow Jones Industrial Average steadily climbed. The NASDAQ enjoyed increases, and the projected cost of maple syrup surged.
On Aug. 31, a reported $30 million of sirop d’érable was stolen from a warehouse in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. The province provides roughly 80 per cent of the world’s maple syrup. We now have reason to fear that inflated costs will befall families looking to stock up for a Sunday brunch, that university residents will have to consume their cafeteria flapjacks dry and that Aunt Jemima will steeple her fingers in wicked anticipation of sales to come.
The mastermind of such a crime? The thief of enough maple syrup to fill two Olympic-length swimming pools? Michael Phelps.
The most decorated Olympian of all time was discovered south of the border in a cavernous hideout of undisclosed location, said to be comparable in breadth to the lair of a James Bond villain. Beside him: a pool lined with lane markers floating on sugary contraband.
“The thing about syrup,” Phelps says, “is its thickness. It’s got such viscosity, it makes for a new and truly challenging swim experience.” Phelps, recently retired from the professional pool, admits he’s taken to syrup-swimming to test himself in his post-Olympic years. Watching the athlete perform his signature dolphin kick or break the gooey surface mid-butterfly is truly remarkable, but the strokes are not the most difficult aspect of the swim. “Flip turns,” Phelps says. “You think you have them down in the water, but when you’re kicking off the end of a pool that’s coated in syrup — man.”
But for Phelps, syrup-swimming isn’t just a physical challenge. “You’re not just competing to get through the pool as fast as possible, you’re not just competing to keep moving — you’re competing against your will . . . stopping yourself from having just a taste of syrup. It’s all around you,” Phelps says. “Your lips, your face — everywhere.” Even the feat of a flip turn or the temptation of sugary delight doesn’t seem to be too much for Phelps, who, in his most rigorous of syrup-swimming exercises, backstrokes from one end of the pool to the other with every one of his 22 medals in tow.
Phelps says that because he waxes regularly in order to be as hydrodynamic as possible, there’s little bodily issue with the syrup once he’s out of the pool. “It’s not clinging to my leg hair or anything.” What does stick to the swimmer is efficiently wiped from his skin when he throws himself across a giant slip-and-slide flapjack that coats the pool deck. (Phelps later consumes the pancake in increments to maintain his diet of 12 000 calories a day.)
Whether Phelps will promote the pancake mixes of Quaker, Fiber One or Hungry Jack — in retaliation to Kellogg’s, the company that promptly dropped the athlete after he was photographed on Facebook “hitting a bong” — remains undetermined. Phelps has, however, thought of using his fame in combination with advertising to bolster awareness of other foods that pair well with syrup. “When all this blows over . . . the theft and everything, I’d like to make crêpes big,” Phelps says. “There’s a good chunk of the world out there that’s never had a Nutella-and-banana crêpe. That needs to change.”