Phelps: “I felt like I didn’t want to see another day”


4 months out from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Michael Phelps is going in with a much different mindset than he had prior to the 2012 London Olympics. Tonight he was interviewed by Matt Lauer on Dateline NBC and discussed his rehab, attitude, and his changed mindset going into the next Olympics.

Behind the mad success of his previous games, Phelps was a much different person on the inside than one would expect, as he told Lauer: “I went in with no self-confidence, no self-love. I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and nobody else,”. He describes the negative period he went through, where he hated swimming as well as life itself. 

He explained his apathy towards the 2012 Olympics and swimming in general, something that made the relationship between him and his coach a toxic one. He admits to skipping practices and not showing up for days at a time, getting into fights with his coach, and hating swimming: “I didn’t care. I actually didn’t care,”.  His coach, Bob Bowman, tells Dateline that he wishes Phelps would have quit then: “I didn’t want him to go through this and I thought it was going to end badly,”. 

Shortly after the London Games, Phelps was sinking further, and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. He explained that the night he was arrested, something clicked in his mind; he realized something needed to change and that he didn’t want to keep living this way: “I was in the lowest place I’ve ever been. Honestly, at one point I felt like I didn’t want to see another day. Felt like it should be over,”.  

He touches on what he was feeling at the time, and how getting arrested opened his eyes and changed his attitude towards his life:  “100% I was lost, pushing a lot of people out of my life, people that I wanted and needed in my life. I was kind of running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from… I sent myself down a downward spiral. I think it was more of a sign than anything else, that I had to get something under control, whatever it was. I look back at that night and everything happened for a reason. I drove that way, but I never go that route,”. Soon after that night, he checked himself into a rehab center and began therapy.

He explains his motives for checking himself into the rehabilitation center: “I checked myself in because I think I was at a point in my life where something needed to change and I needed to figure things out,”. Phelps says that through his rehabilitation, he was able to overcome the belief that his father did not care about him: “One of the biggest things that I was able to really overcome was the feeling of being avoided by my father, being abandoned by my father. I was a kid that always wanted a family, whether our parents are together or not, I still wanted a mom and a dad. I haven’t had that for so long,”. 

Phelps’ father, who divorced his mother in 1994, has not had much contact with the swimmer in the last twenty years. Regardless, Phelps invited him to visit him in rehab and his dad accepted the invitation. Discussing this, Phelps said, ““It showed that he wanted to still be in my life, so that feeling I had of being avoided, of being abandoned, was a misunderstanding?” 

Phelps describes letting out the fact that he admitted himself to rehab, and showing his true emotions: “I dunno if it was like, afraid of letting go and showing who I am or what it was, and I finally was just like, screw this, I’m not hiding behind anything anymore, I am who I am, and if you don’t like it, it’s really not my issue and it’s not my problem,”.  

When asked what the change was that made Phelps become more open about his difficulties, he said, “Because I’m comfortable about it. I’m a lot more laid back, I’m a lot more relaxed,”.

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Lane Four

Good interview. I wish it had been longer than 15 minutes but it still gave a good insight into the demons Michael faced with such extreme success at a very young age. Success can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing. He went through the fire. Hopefully he is now in a good place for the rest of his life.


Where are you seeing a 15 minute video? When I click the link provided I just get a minute long snippet of the interview


You may have to go to the NBC online site to find it. More than likely it will end up on YouTube sooner or later.

Lane Four

I watched it last night on NBC.


I appreciate that Michael Phelps has made positive changes in his life. He has also been helpful to Allison Schmitt, encouraging her to get help for her post 2012 depression. But he owes an apology to the Olympic swimmers (I beleieve Tyler Clary was one of them) who called him out for his work ethic prior to the 2012 games. Didn’t show up to the pool for 2 weeks prior to his 2012 Matt Lauer interview? Right before the Olympics? Phelps was pretty critical. Likewise, the so called sports writers who said a “comeback” was silly–that he should leave well enough alone–who have never spent any time training at the level an Olympic athlete–who only criticize those that compete–they owe… Read more »


He has a lot more apologizing to do than that. He was NOT a nice person when he was at CW from 2005-08. Lots for hurt little kids (older kids/young adults now) who to this day are amazed with his swimming and how much of a jerk he is (or was).


Can you expand on this?

Irish Ringer

I don’t know if he really owes Clary an apology. It wasn’t Tyler’s place to spill those beans, and it was not the proper time just prior to the games.


Yes he does. It was true and he got crucified for saying it.

Irish Ringer

As he should have. They are gearing up the Olympics are here is Clary tearing down a teammate. He had 5-6 years to air that dirty laundry and he chooses just prior to trials if I remember correctly because he couldn’t beat Phelps in the 400im.


Sportswriters don’t owe him an apology for anything. They were giving their opinion which is their job. As far as him skipping practices, did you not see the interview or read the SI article? He was going through some heavy duty emotional things and probably has for a long time. After the 2008 Olympics he told Anderson Cooper in an interview that he was depressed so this isn’t a new thing. It was obvious that he lacked direction and was spinning out of control. When you look at all that, the Olympics seems to pale in comparison to emotional well being.

Irish Ringer

The only one who owes him an apology is Benedict “Arnold” Clary.

bobo gigi

Congrats to Michael on being father for the third time this past weekend. 😉

Team Rwanda

Pere pour la troisième fois? what did they smoke?


Maybe they are counting Juno and Legend too. LOL

About Anne Marie Devries

Anne Marie Devries

AnneMarie DeVries, originally from Sheldon, Iowa, jumped into the pool before she was two and has been in love with the water ever since. After moving to Boone, Iowa in 2010 she began swimming competitively and now swims for Boone High School and the Ames Cyclone Aquatic Club. She is …

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