CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Phelps pumped his right fist upon completing the final leg for the winning relay team ahead of Australian great Grant Hackett on Saturday.
It was another golden moment for the winningest Olympic athlete in history, though don’t expect to see him competing on the world’s biggest stage again.
Phelps all but slammed the door on another return after leaving it ever-so slightly ajar in an interview with The Associated Press last month.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I think four years ago, I wasn’t. I think being able to come back and being able to finish how I did and being able to get back to where I wanted to get to – for me, at this point in my life and in my career, that’s all I can ask for. Right?” he said.
“I wanted to have a chance to kind of shut out the `what if’ 20 years down the road. Now, I think 20 years down the road I think I’ll be able to look back and say I’m really happy that I took that opportunity to come back and swim in one more (Olympics).”
Phelps was considering a comeback when he attended the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. By the time it ended, there was no doubt in his mind he would be competing in his fifth Olympics.
In Rio de Janeiro last summer, he got the closure he needed. And if that’s it for him, he sure went out in style.
At age 31, Phelps captured five more gold medals, bringing his total to 23, along with a silver. He swam the second leg in the 4x100m freestyle relay in his final race and put the United States out front for good against a powerful field that included defending champion France, Australia and Russia.
The stakes weren’t quite as high on Saturday.
Phelps was in Chicago to announce a partnership between his foundation and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to promote safety in the pool.
Phelps and fellow Olympians Allison Schmitt and Hackett gave members of the Special Olympics Chicago Aquatics team and children from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago swimming lessons, and the three also swam final legs of a relay race with the Special Olympians.
He also addressed the participants and fielded questions from them before signing autographs and taking a big group selfie.
Retirement, he insisted, is suiting him just fine.
“I’m retiring because it’s time to move on,” Phelps said. “I spent most of my life in the swimming pool. … I have some other goals that I want to accomplish outside of the pool. It’s not the end of my swimming career, it’s the start of something else. I’ll always be around the pool. I’ll always be around the sport. I’m ready to move on. Sometimes, it just happens.”
He’s enjoying spending more time with his wife Nicole and their 1-year-old son Boomer. He has a new sponsorship deal with Colgate in which he’s promoting water conservation and he travels frequently for his various business interests and causes.
“I have no desire to swim 14,000 to 15,000 yards in a day,” Phelps said, referring to his training regimen. “That just doesn’t sound fun to me. I went to swim meets and I was just like, `I’m really happy I’m watching and not competing.”‘
Phelps said he swam 300 yards on Friday. It was his first time in the pool in about a month. Compare that to a training regimen of swimming about 40 to 60 miles a week.
“For 15 years, that’s a long time,” he said. “I want to have my body when Boomer’s 10. I’d like to be able to have shoulders that work; they’re not all banged up from all the training.
“It’s just time for me to move on and spend more time with the family – but also be able to work more directly with the foundation. Working more with mental health. Being able to do all these things that I’m so passionate about, that can change or help somebody’s life.”
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