Michael Phelps routinely laughed off comeback questions in a media tour Tuesday, but he still hopes to watch the world championships in person in July.
And who knows if that competitive desire will rekindle this summer like it did four years ago.
“The true test will be, if I do end up going over to the worlds this summer, do I have that itch again?” Phelps said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
In 2013, then-retired Phelps attended worlds wearing a boot on his right foot due to a stress fracture suffered from playing golf. He laughed off a question then from NBC’s Dan Hicks about whether he had completely closed the door on a comeback.
Turns out, Phelps had already re-entered the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool (a sign of ending retirement) but wasn’t letting anyone in on that secret until November 2013.
Fast forward to now, and Phelps seems content not competing. He took his name out of drug testing in the fall.
Phelps attended last week’s USA Swimming meet in Mesa, Ariz., but didn’t race at the annual meet for the first time since 2013.
“It’s different now for me being on deck and watching compared to four years ago because I felt like I had the itch a little bit then, when I first retired,” Phelps said before a Today Show appearance Monday. “Now, I’m just like, yeah, I don’t miss it. I don’t miss getting in and warming up and being freezing when you get out of the pool or sitting at a meet for five or six hours a day. That’s not going to happen anymore.”
Phelps, who lives near Mesa with wife Nicole and 11-month-old son Boomer, spent the meet catching up with Olympic teammates Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Leah Smith and Nathan Adrian. And closely watching longtime training partner Chase Kalisz, whom he considers like a little brother.
He flew to New York this week to promote sponsor Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts water-conservation campaign, urging all to turn faucets off while brushing their teeth.
“You can waste up to four gallons of water, that’s ridiculous,” Phelps said. “Boomer isn’t brushing his teeth yet. It’s something so simple and so easy that we’re going to end up teaching him.”
Phelps may accompany Kalisz and other active swimmers and former coach Bob Bowman on an upcoming camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Phelps routinely flew to Colorado during his career to train at altitude.
But this time, he would purely be there to assist Bowman’s coaching.
“I won’t be a Bob-type coach, ever,” Phelps said.
Instead, Phelps pores over videos for Bowman, analyzing strokes.
“I can’t break it down to the other athletes, but I can break it down to [Bowman], and then he can break it down,” Phelps said.
Phelps said he knows how Kalisz can drop another couple of seconds off his 400m individual medley and his 200m butterfly. Kalisz took silver in the 400m IM in Rio.
For now, Phelps still handles the constant comeback questions with smiles and chuckles.
“I’m waiting for the time where my son finally asks me why I’m not swimming anymore,” he said.
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