RIO DE JENAIRO: Michael Phelps emphatically ruled out a U-turn on his decision to quit swimming after the Rio Olympics following a shock defeat Friday in his final individual race.
After being denied a fifth gold of the Games by Singapore’s Joseph Schooling in the 100m butterfly, and dead-heating with Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh Phelps for silver, Phelps was inevitably asked the six million dollar question.
Cutting in before the journalist had finished, the American shook his head and smiled.
“Nope, done,” he said. “I’m not going four more years. I’m standing by that. I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever put my mind to in the sport — 24 years in the sport.
“I’m happy with how things finished,” added Phelps, who will retire as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 27 medals, a staggering 22 of them shiny gold.
“That’s why I came back after ’12. I didn’t want to have a what-if 20 years later. Being able to close the door on this sport the way I wanted to, that’s why I’m happy now.”
Phelps, 31, had flirted with retirement after London and his career threatened to end in humiliation two years ago when he was arrested for drunk driving.
But he had looked unstoppable in Rio, at least until Asian champion Schooling floored him in the 100m fly, an event he had won at the past three Games.
“I’m ready to retire and I’m happy about it,” said Phelps, looking forward to marrying girlfriend Nicole Johnson later this year and spending more time with his baby son Boomer, who was in Rio to watch his dad race.
“I’m in a better state of mind this time than I was four years ago. I’m ready to spend some time with Boomer and Nicole and watch the little dude grow.”
There was even a tinge of bro-mance in the air between Phelps and fierce rival le Clos following a war of words between the two swimmers since London, where the South African pipped Phelps for gold in his pet race, the 200m fly.
Phelps, who exacted crushing revenge on le Clos in Rio, held hands with Cseh and his bitter foe as the three men perched awkwardly together on the same step of the podium.
“I think it was a bit long we were holding hands,” smiled le Clos. “It was about three minutes. We were on the podium and it just happened — it almost felt like a relay!”