“Everything just hit really hard.”
After breaking nearly every Olympic record imaginable—including tying a 2,000-year-old medal record set by an ancient Greek—swimming legend Michael Phelps announced Monday that he’s done with the Olympic Games for good. But will he actually follow through this time?
In an interview with Matt Lauer, Phelps said, “Done, done, done—and this time I mean it. I wanted to come back and finish my career how I wanted, and this was the cherry on top of the cake.”
Phelps, 31, will end his swimming career as the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time after winning five gold medals and one silver in Rio. In total, Phelps has taken home 28 medals over the course of his career, 23 of those gold. His last race in Rio, the 400-meter medley relay, earned him his final gold medal.
Still, Phelps also had said four years ago that he planned to retire after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, telling TODAY, “I’m done. I’m finished. I’m retired. I’m done. No more.” Sounds familiar, does it not?
So what’s different this time? “Between now and London, I was so much more emotional during these Games, I think that showed at times on camera,” Phelps told Lauer. “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.”
As was well-documented by the media, Phelps faced some turbulent times between the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, including a DUI arrest in 2014 and a short stay in rehab. Since then, he not only has reignited his career, but also has started a family with longtime girlfriend Nicole Johnson.
If there’s any athlete capable of making a comeback of epic proportion, it’s Michael Phelps. Either way, Phelps is excited to use his celebrity to reduce global drowning rates and promote other charitable causes. “This is the part of my life where I get to start this whole new chapter,” he says.