FIRST LOOK: Oprah Hosts Phelps and Other Olympic Champs

FIRST LOOK: Oprah Hosts Phelps and Other Olympic Champs
Olympians gather on The Oprah Winfrey Show
Landov

09/04/2008 AT 11:00 AM EDT

Even face-to-face with Oprah Winfrey, Michael Phelps remains mum on the topic of his private life.

But in terms of Olympic-sized revelations, Nastasia Liukin admits she gained inspiration from The Secret, while Kobe Bryant confessed to his surprise at finding he has so many fans in China.

As promised by the talk-show queen, the trio and some 150 other U.S. Olympic team members reunited on The Oprah Winfrey Show Wednesday for that program's 23rd season opener – delivering a gab session and pep rally that drew more than 5,000 fans to Chicago's Millennium Park. The episode will air Monday.

Amid banners and red, white and blue confetti, Phelps, Liukin, Bryant, Shawn Johnson and others paraded through the cheering crowd before settling onstage to witness with the audience some of the most exciting Olympic moments replayed on giant video screens.

Happy to Be Home

"It's good to be back on American soil," said Phelps, 23, grinning shyly and wearing only one of the eight gold medals he took home for swimming.

Asking the most pressing question, "Are you single?," Winfrey was told by Phelps, "I try to keep my private life private."

Bryant, joined by others on the winning men's basketball team, said the players made a conscious effort to bring back gold and remedy what had become the sullied reputation of American players.

"We made it a personal challenge. It was a priority" to take arrogance out of the game, he told Winfrey. In response to all the attention he received from adoring Chinese fans, Bryant, 30, admitted, "It caught me off guard."

Female Appeal

Athletes such as gymnast Nastasia Liukin and swimmer and Dara Torres also appealed to Winfrey's largely female audience.

Liukin, 18, cited the inspiration she received from The Secret, a self-help book popularized on Winfrey's show. Recalling her pre-China prep, "I said, 'I guess I should read it, Oprah read it,' " said the winning athlete.

As for Torres – at 41, the winner of three silver medals in Beijing – the swimmer and mother of a 2-year-old said age shouldn't limit one's dreams. "All the mothers out there are my role models," she said.

RELATED GALLERIES:
See other Olympians on the cover of PEOPLE
Get your Oprah fix! See ALL of her PEOPLE covers!
MORE ON: Oprah Winfrey

From Our Partners