So there we have it. They made us wait until very nearly the end of the show to see it, but last night we got an outstanding interview with Michael Phelps done by Anderson Cooper on CBS’ news show 60 minutes.
I think first and foremost, Anderson Cooper did a phenomenal job on the interview. He was direct, and avoided compiling fluff about if Phelps is trying for 8 medals again, and put together a typically-great 60 minutes piece. Most of us who follow the sport closely didn’t learn a ton of information, but there were some good insight into the relationships in Michael Phelps’ world.
Further, I think that we can all appreciate the candor and honesty of Phelps, his coach Bob Bowman, and his mother Debbie. I think that it really gave the rest of the world a glimpse into how psychologically tough training to be an Olympic swimmer is. The infamous marijuana incident was addressed, but not dwelt on – they decided instead to emphasize it as a symptom of the bigger lack of motivation that he was going through.
We seemed to get an even further definition to his never-ever-will-I-come-back-after-London. Apparently, he and his mother have discussed him coming back and just swimming sprint freestyles, but even that hasn’t enticed him. Many Americans still hold out hope that he’ll stick around to swim the 100 free even if only on a relay, as American fans are perpetually concerned about the state of our sprinting. This seems to be an event that he’s always wanted to concentrate on, but has never had the chance to. But he made an unequivocal declaration that he would never come out of retirement.
I think that the relationship between Phelps and his mother was very interesting. They are obviously still fairly close. Phelps’ comments that “Bob couldn’t tell me, my mom couldn’t tell me” juxtaposed with the internal conflict of having to tell his mother about the photo and what he had done was truly interesting. It’s clear that he still find support and strength in his mother, but also that he takes ownership for his own swimming, and knows that at the end of the day, if he has to have somebody else tell him that he needs to train, it’s never going to work.
This is the big story of the Olympics. It’s not Phelps versus Lochte, though that’s what will sell tickets and put butts in front of the TV. The real story is Phelps’s internal battle with himself for motivation, and it seems to be one that he’s winning.
(PS – Phelps keeps his medals in a makeup purse…but don’t fool yourself into thinking that they don’t come out of the closet at the occasional request of a young lady – especially one along the lines of Bar Rafaelli).