Michael Phelps has repeated in the last year that he feels strong enough that he could make a comeback, but he doesn’t have the motivation.
Maybe the 10th anniversary of Phelps’ eight gold medals at the Beijing Games this month provides the itch. Who knows. But so far, Phelps hasn’t been persuaded, even by jocular texts from longtime coach Bob Bowman.
“He’ll text ‘100 free?’” Phelps said, laughing, in a recent interview, according to the Baltimore Sun. “And I’m like, ‘Bob, shut up. Leave me alone.’”
Bowman, who recently apologized for inappropriate texts to retired swimmer Caroline Burckle in 2011, said he was not serious about urging Phelps to unretire, according to the report.
“Did he say I want him to swim? I don’t think I really do,” Bowman said. “There’s a delicious irony in the fact that because he’s been on Peloton and takes care of himself really well, he’s in way better shape than he was when he came back in 2013. And I see him swim, you see the stroke and it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s not really too bad.’ But no, I definitely do not want him to have to go through all that.”
The whole story is reminiscent of nine years ago, when Phelps’ mom, Debbie, needled her son about going for Rio 2016 after the Brazilian city was awarded the Games. Phelps had already publicly said he would retire in three years, after the London Olympics.
“When they announced Rio, I texted him, I’m like, Michael, 2016, Rio, 50 free, 100 free, just a relay,” Debbie Phelps said in 2012. “No, mother. I will send you there.”
When Phelps did unretire in 2013, it started with a text.
“Let’s have dinner soon. MP,” Phelps texted Bowman at the time, according to Bowman’s book, “The Golden Rules.”
Bowman and Phelps met. More from Bowman’s book:
Michael leaned forward and his eyes narrowed. He looked at me and said, “I’m thinking about coming back.” I stared at him. He smiled a bit. “Yep,” he went on, “I’m thinking about the Olympics one more time.”
I wasn’t sure if I should jump for joy or start crying.
“You want to come back?” I asked, a bit shocked and confused. He sort of grinned and nodded. …
Michael looked at me with the face of a wizened young man. And he said, “That’s the only reason I want to do it. For me. I love to swim. I want to swim.”
He paused for a second. “And I have more things I want to accomplish.”
Recent social media posts have shown Phelps in the pool with retired seven-time Australian Olympic medalist swimmer Grant Hackett. The Baltimore Sun reported the two compete against each other and that Phelps also asks Bowman to time him when he goes to Arizona State University to “splash around.”
“There are very few times when I don’t try to get up and go something semi-quick,” Phelps said, according to the report. “It’s just natural. It’s the only thing I know, I guess.”
Bowman now coaches at ASU, and Phelps lives nearby with his wife and two young boys.
For those still hoping, Phelps did say in July 2017 there was a one or two percent chance he would come back, according to Entertainment Weekly.
“Very minimal,” Phelps said after a laugh then, according to the magazine. “I wanted to retire on my own terms and never have a what-if, and I’m to that point where I’m very content with everything that’s going on.”
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