Grant Hackett

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Michael Phelps joins gold medalists in swim race, but no comeback

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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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Grant Hackett ‘not there in mind, soul, spirit,’ brother says after latest trouble

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Olympic swimming gold medalist Grant Hackett was detained by police on Australia’s Gold Coast on Wednesday after his father called for help.

Hackett’s brother, Craig, said the family was struggling to cope with the 36-year-old retired swimmer’s mental health issues.

“The whole family have done everything that we can but now it’s kind of out of our hands,” Craig Hackett was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press. “The Grant Hackett that Australia fell in love with, they can still have that affection toward him. This is not ‘Grant Hackett.'”

Craig Hackett said his younger brother’s personality had become almost unrecognizable.

“This is a completely different person,” Craig Hackett said. “I don’t know this person, my mum and dad don’t know this person. He’s there in body, but he’s not there in mind, soul or spirit.”

Hackett’s father, former police detective Neville, called police to his Gold Coast home around noon Wednesday after two-time Olympic 1500m freestyle champion became agitated and aggressive.

The former swimming star agreed to go with police and was later released, but not before the episode had made national news.

“This is now a chronic problem and it looks like it’s not going to go away in a hurry,” Craig Hackett said. “From a mental health perspective I hope something can be done.

“To see someone who is so dominant and had the world at his feet to now, really we don’t know what’s going to happen — it doesn’t look encouraging.”

Hackett had a high profile as a swimmer and TV personality after winning gold in the 1500m at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympics, holding the world record in the event, and finishing with silver at Beijing in 2008.

After his TV career unraveled following a series of out-of-competition troubles, he tried to make a comeback for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year but didn’t qualify for the Australian team.

Last April, he publicly apologized for a drunken incident on a flight home from the Australian Olympic trials when he was accused of groping a male passenger who reclined the seat in front of him.

Hackett admitted he’d been drinking alcohol before the flight and would seek help to quit.

He said his career was tarnished by “pure stupidity, making poor decisions at crucial times in my life” and he felt “a huge amount of regret.”

Hackett said he struggled being back in the public spotlight after six years away from competitive swimming, leading to “unacceptable” and “embarrassing” actions.

“I have to live with that. It is very difficult. A deep sense of shame, guilt, embarrassment, of regret, I am so sorry for my actions and the people it has impacted,” he said.

Hackett traveled to the United States in 2014 to undergo treatment for a dependency on the sleeping medication Stilnox. His stint in rehabilitation followed the publication of a photograph of him partially nude and disoriented at a Melbourne hotel, searching for his young son, and the very public breakup of his marriage.

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Grant Hackett fails to make Australian Olympic team in comeback

Grant Hackett
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Seven-time Olympic medalist Grant Hackett‘s bid for a fourth Olympics after a seven-year retirement ended at the Australian Olympic trials Friday.

Hackett, 35, finished 11th in the semifinals of the 200m freestyle, one day after he placed fourth in the 400m freestyle. Full Australian trials results are here.

He needed to make the eight-man 200m free final and finish sixth or finish second in the 400m free to become the oldest Australian Olympic swimmer of all time.

“It’s disappointing, but I gave it a shot,” Hackett said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I was honest about my preparation and the ups and downs I had. The 400 yesterday really took it out of me. I felt great in the [preliminary] heat, but I didn’t have the fitness to keep bouncing back.

“I can get back to my normal life now.”

Hackett’s comeback was successful last year, when he finished fourth in the 200m free at the Australian Championships to make the World Championships team in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

He led off the preliminary heat relay at Worlds and wasn’t selected for the final, where Australia took bronze, still earning Hackett his 19th career Worlds medal. He debuted at Worlds in 1998 at age 17.

Hackett followed Kieren Perkins as Australia’s marquee man in its coveted race, the 1500m freestyle, taking gold in 2000 and 2004 and nearly becoming the first swimmer to win the same Olympic event three times in 2008. He took 1500m free silver in Beijing, his last international competition until the 2015 Worlds.

Four years ago, three of his teammates from Australian swimming’s golden era — Ian ThorpeMichael Klim and Geoff Huegill — all failed in Olympic comeback attempts, too.

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