For Michael Phelps, this is it. In his mind, there’s no doubt about it. As soon as his hand touches the wall for the final time at the London Olympics, his swimming career is over.
And, really, what’s left to accomplish?
Maybe that’s why he seems to be having a lot more fun in the days leading up to London than he did at Athens or Beijing, where he was under intense pressure to turn in record-breaking performances.
”This is closure,” Phelps said Thursday. ”Now it’s just a matter of how many toppings I want on my sundae.”
Several hundred media packed the media room, including Olympic speedskating star Apolo Anton Ohno, who’s now working for NBC and got in a question about how Phelps keeps things simple with all the distractions.
Actually, he seems to be having a blast. After Phelps walked in the room, he pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of all the reporters and cameras staring back at him, capturing another moment on his farewell tour.
”This is the last competitive meet I’m going to have in my career,” Phelps said. ”It’s big. It’s something I’ve never experienced. I’m going to have a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts this week.”
He’s been relaxing in the common room of his apartment in the Olympic Village, watching episodes of ”The Wire,” the gritty drama based in his hometown of Baltimore. He’s spent time strolling through the sprawling complex, caught off guard when he spotted three Russian female athletes – all of them taller than the 6-foot-4-inch swimmer.
”Geez, I thought I was tall,” Phelps said with a chuckle.
He better chill now, because he’ll be a very busy guy starting Saturday with his duel in the 400 individual medley against American rival Ryan Lochte. Even though Phelps dropped out of the 200 freestyle, he’s still swimming more events than anyone except teammate Missy Franklin: four individual races and, most likely, all three relays.
Compared to the last Olympics, where he broke Mark Spitz’s record for a single games with eight gold medals, this program looks like a relative breeze for the 27-year-old Phelps. The fact that someone swimming seven events could be viewed as taking it easy perhaps sums up his dominance better than anything else.
”In Beijing, we were trying to conquer everything,” he said. ”We’re a lot more relaxed. We’re having fun.”