Sixteen years ago Michael Phelps qualified for his first Olympic team with a second place finish in the 200m butterfly at the 2000 Olympic Trials. Phelps’ longtime coach Bob Bowman remembers the press conference in the aftermath of his success, “the question was do you have a girlfriend, have you kissed her yet?”
Bowman laughed as he reminisced, recalling telling Phelps, “no comment, no comment.”
Today, Phelps qualified for his fifth Olympic team with a win in the 200m butterfly at the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials. After being awarded his gold medal by 1992 200m butterfly Olympic gold medallist Mel Stewart, and being interviewed by Brendan Hansen and Kaitlin Sandeno, Phelps ran to the stands on the other side of the pool.
Spotlight on Phelps, his fiancée Nicole Johnson walked down the stairs to him with their newborn child, Boomer Phelps. He kissed her, he kissed his child, he handed them the flowers and stuffed animal he received along with his gold medal, and then jogged out of the pool giving high-five to excited swim fans on the way out.
“I’ve always given my family my flowers and stuffed animal,” Phelps said referring to all the times he’s passed them along to his mother or sisters. “I guess that’s his first stuffed animal from a race and I just wanted to share that with him.”
A lot has changed since Phelps made his first Olympic team in 2000. Now he’s the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s done things in the sport that nobody else has done, but many of the changes Phelps has shown aren’t just based on athletic achievements.
Phelps has his own family, he has a child, he has a fiancée, and he’s finally ready to move on to a family life following one last hoorah in the pool at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“It’s just special being able to have Nicole and I’s first born be part of the journey that we’re on right now,” Phelps said.
As of now, Phelps has until August 13th when the final day of swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games will come to an end, and he’ll hang up his goggles, this time presumably for good. His focus is currently on ending his career the way he wants to go out, a theme he’s reiterated time and time again in the last few months leading up to trials.
One of his big goals, is getting a best time.
“I’d like to think that anytime that Bob and I work hard for a year that we’re able to get a best time,” said Phelps. “I’d like to have maybe one before I retire.”
Best times for Phelps indicate world records considering that he’s the world record holder in the 200m butterfly, an event that he’s guaranteed to swim in Rio, and the 100m butterfly, an event that he’ll most likely also qualify for.
On the topic of records Bowman said to Phelps, “but in all fairness…some of those records -”
Phelps cut Bowman off, “some of them were just ridiculous.”
Bowman continued “You were in your prime of your prime and everything was going right, so it’s kind of -”
Phelps once again cut Bowman off to say, “I don’t know, I think any record is beatable.”
Come August 13th, all will be set and done. Phelps’ career will finally come to a close, records or not, and he’ll move on to a new chapter in his life. A chapter that includes being a father to his newborn son Boomer, and getting married to Johnson.