Due to his drunk driving arrest and resulting suspension last September, 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps was removed from the Worlds roster and will instead be competing at the U.S. Summer Nationals slated to begin tomorrow.
Phelps accepts the situation for what it is and will be looking to perform at his best in San Antonio, where other international athletes and non-Worlds U.S. team members will be in attendance. Says Phelps, “Obviously, I’d like to be competing at worlds, but this is what I have to do.”
As such, Phelps is entering this meet as his own version of Worlds, using it as a gauge from which he can measure himself against the rest of the world headed into the final year before Rio. “Of course [not being at Worlds], it’s going to motivate me,” Phelps said. “I don’t want to be No. 2. I don’t want to be No. 3. I can’t stand it. Sure, this is different. But it’s still the end of the [season], and I’d like to put up some No. 1 times in the world.”
For all of the Phelps fans eager to see the ‘Greatest of All Time’ back in his Olympian-esque form, you’ll be happy to know that he regards himself as being in the kind of shape he hasn’t seen himself in a “long, long time. Maybe not ever.” Phelps is taking on a schedule which includes the 100m and 200m butterfly races, along with the 200m IM and 200m breaststroke, an atypical event for the 30-year old that he is most likely approaching as a training race.
Phelps is in the best shape out of the pool as well, as he openly states that he is not going to drink until after Rio – “if I ever drink again.” Phelps said sincerely the decision to not drink was one he made for himself, expressing, “I’m being honest with myself. Going into 2008 and 2012, I didn’t do that. I didn’t say I was going to take a year off from drinking and not have a drink.”
He continued describing his mindset as approaching his career in a renewed manner, saying, “If I’m going to come back, I need to do this the right way. I’ve got to put my body in the best physical shape I can possibly get it in. Is it a challenge? No. I go to bed earlier. I sleep more. I wake up every day and have a completely clear head. I don’t feel like my head went through a brick wall. There are so many positives to it.”
Phelps does concede there are some trade-offs to his restrictive lifestyle, “Are there days I’m sitting on the golf course or sitting on my roof (patio) and would like to have a beer? Yeah. But I have a year left in my career. If I really want it bad enough, I will make that sacrifice.”
In terms of how Phelps ‘the persona’ is perceived, says the 18-time Olympic gold medalist, “I feel like people think I’m more approachable now than I ever was. I feel like I am OK and I am happy with who I am. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself, who I truly am. I can honestly say there aren’t many people in this world who have seen who I really am.”
For longtime coach Bob Bowman’s part, he says he doesn’t “go to bed at night worrying about what I’m going to find in the morning. That wasn’t always the case.”
U.S. Nationals in San Antonio run Thursday, August 6th – Monday, August 10th.