Philly Teams

.

Corner Pub Sports

‘This time I mean it’ Michael Phelps Insists He’s Retired

Michael Phelps Photo via BaltimoreSun.com

Saturday night wrapped up the swimming portion of Olympic events and it also marked the end of Michael Phelps career. From a 15-year-old boy to a 28-time Olympic medalist, we watched him grow into the worlds most decorated Olympian. Phelps,  the most decorated Olympian of all time, insisted Monday he finished swimming his last Olympic race. This time I believe him.

“Done, done, done — and this time I mean it,” he told Matt Lauer of the Today show in a live interview Monday. “I wanted to come back and finish my career how I wanted and this was the cherry on top of the cake.”

Unconvincingly he made the same proclamation to Lauer after the London games four year ago, but this time was different. His 31-year-old body got out of the pool just a little bit slow and he took that much longer to recover, however his result in pool remained the same, pure dominance. He reclaimed the 200M Butterfly title he lost to Chad Le Clos in 2012, his signature event that could have been the sole reason the fire was still burning inside Phelps. In maybe the most telling sign of his pending retirement was the emotions he showed with every podium he stepped on. As the American flag was raised and the national anthem was played, Phelps took a breath and soaked in the moment trying to hold back the tears on what he knew would be his swan song.

“Between now and London, I was so much more emotional during these Games, I think that showed at times on camera,” he said. “That’s the difference. Because I knew this was the last time. I knew this was the last race that I ever had, the last Olympics that I ever had. And everything just really hit hard.”

To say Michael Phelps was a dominate swimmer might be the understatement of the century. While the butterfly and freestyle might be his most dominate strokes, Phelps competed in the 200 and 400 induvial medley’s (IM), which encompass all four swimming strokes. He holds or has held world records in the 400 IM, 200 IM, 200 Free style, 200 Butterfly as well as a couple relay events. That would be like asking Usain Bolt to dominate in the 100m, 200m, 400m and hurdles, it is simply unheard of.

His impressive career started at the age of 7 as a way to get rid of some energy and focus his ADHD. He found a home at the Baltimore Aquatic Club and met up with now long time coach Bob Bowman. In 2000, at the age of 15 Phelps became the youngest swimmer to make the US swim team. He qualified for the finals in the 200 Butterfly but didn’t medal finishing 5th.

Over the next four years Phelps continued to show the world he was the next great thing as he racked up multiple gold medals at the World Championships. By the time the US trails for the 2004 games in Athens rolled around he was a man on a mission. In Athens Phelps competed in five individual events and three relays making for an extremely package schedule. In addition to the final race swimmers must qualify via the preliminaries and semi-final heats, meaning Phelps swam a minimum of 18 races (relays he only swam the finals). He walked away with 6 Gold and 3 bronze medals.

In 2008, Phelps had history on his mind. He wanted to become the first athlete to win 8 gold medals in one Olympics, meaning he would had to beat out former US swimmer Mark Spitz and his 7 gold medals won in 1972. He would need some help from his teammate was once again his program consisted of five induvial events and three relays. After cruising through the first six finals setting Olympic and World records along the way, Phelps saved the dramatics for last. In his seventh final, the 100 Butterfly, Phelps won by the narrowest of margins .01 seconds. Initially he was declared the winner and after official review breaking down the frames to 1/10,000 of a second apart it was confirmed Phelps had his gold. His final race the 4×100 medley relay, Team USA beat out Australia by .07, which compared to Phelps previous race he had plenty of room to spare. Said Phelps, upon completing the event that awarded him his eighth gold medal and eighth Olympic record in as many events, “Records are always made to be broken no matter what they are … Anybody can do anything that they set their mind to.”

Going into London and with nothing left to prove Phelps scaled back his Olympic program to just four individual events and two relays. He walked away from these games with four gold medals and two silver medals. It was one of those silver medals, in the 200 butterfly, that left a bad taste in Phelps mouth. It was his signature event and he was no longer the king. Still after the London Olympics Phelps said he was done and was going to call it a career.

We all know how well that worked out. After a falling out with coach Bowman leading into the 2012 Olympics Phelps took two years off before realizing he missed the pool. He convinced his coach he wanted to start training again, not for medals or history but simply because he loved to swim. Two years later Phelps and Coach Bowman found themselves in familiar territory, the Olympics.

Given one of the greatest of honors, Phelps was chosen as the Flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. In previous years Phelps would never attend the ceremony instead focusing on his competitions which would start the next day. That should have been the first sign that something was different. Phelps wanted to take in every moment he could as he knew this time it would be his last. Much like his previous three Olympics Phelps walked away with an impressive amount of hardware. He reclaimed his 200 butterfly title in addition to four other gold medals and a silver.

Not many people can say they retired while they were at the top of their sport, but if this is truly the end Phelps can add his name to the list. He is a 28-time Olympic medalist and a 23-time Olympic Gold medalist. To give that some context he has 14 more medals than the next closet Olympian and if he were his own country he would have more golds than 150 nations. It might be tempting try for the summer games in Tokyo but Phelps will be 35 and will literally have nothing left to prove. Phelps seems genuinely ready to move onto the next chapter of his life whatever that may be. He will be getting married soon and has a new baby boy at home to occupy his free time.

Phelps will always be linked to the pool and if this was the last time he races competitively all I can say is Thank You!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: