The most decorated Olympian of all-time Michael Phelps explained Tuesday why he would never return to the Olympics any time in the future. Speaking to reporters at an event in New Delhi, the 28 Olympic medal-winning swimmer said he does not feel the same in the water since retirement.
“In swimming, when you miss one day of training, it takes you two days to get back. In six years, I never missed a single day. It made me better than athletes who took a Sunday off. But now that I am out of the pool, if I go back again, I don’t feel the same. I have lost it. So no comebacks,” Phelps said.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps won eight Olympic gold medals in all eight events that he participated in. He won four golds in the 2012 London games, and then made a comeback in 2016 at Rio to win five more.
Recalling his career, Phelps said that it took a lot to maintain the same level of performance over the years.
“The 2012 Olympics was perhaps when I was in my worst shape. After winning all gold in 2008, it was challenging to figure out my next goal. Later, in 2016, to find the motivation again, and to train and to perform again perfectly, was even more challenging and incredible,” he said.
Which was the most memorable Olympics for him? Phelps said he would rate the Beijing and Rio Olympics the same, although for different reasons.
“2008 was memorable because I won 8 for 8. Its hard to not say it was the greatest Olympics. But competing in Rio… to climb back to the mountain, was great fun. I felt like a 15 to 16-year-old kid, who was starting to enjoy himself again. They were both very different Olympics. But I love both equally,” he said.
Phelps, in his Olympics career, broke world records for having won the most number of medals (28), the most gold medals (23), the most individual medals (16) and most individual gold medals (13).
“I hate losing, but I was never afraid to lose. When people ask me what was going through my head when I was standing at the block, I tell them absolutely nothing. I can’t change what I have prepared. All I have to do is get in the water and swim,” the 33-year-old said.
So what does the future hold for him? Phelps said he is enjoying having discussions on active lifestyle and mental health.
“In the sporting world, I was able to achieve everything I wanted to. Now, I am continuing talking about the importance of healthy and active lifestyles, mental health and water safety. It is something close to me and makes me excited to get out of bed every day,” he said.
When asked about his advice to the next generation of stars , Phelps said: “Never give up on something you truly wanted. If your dream is true, you can do everything to make it a reality. My journey was not always easy… was not always fun. But it was something I truly wanted and there was no one who could stop me from achieving my goals.”
“If there is a kid dreaming of 50 Olympic medals, if there is someone dreaming of the stars, they can achieve that,” he said.