Reaction to Michael Phelps’ 60 Minutes Interview [Video]

  16 Braden Keith | May 07th, 2012 | Featured, London 2012 Olympics, News

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).

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Comments

  1. Gold Medal Mel Stewart says:
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    …Braden, I think you’re right. We in the swimming community will follow the Phelps v Lochte story in London, but NBC –who will pump that story as well– will also quickly turn it into Phelps hanging up his trunks as the greatest Olympic athlete in history. (Caught myself getting a little choked up in Austin when Phelps was talking about taking photos with Bob at each pool, their last photo at each pool….and I’m pretty sure Phelps will actually comback in 2014 or 15 in the 100 free / 100 fly.)

  2. Liliana says:
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    That was a great interview, it’s obvious he’s improved his skills in dealing with media.

  3. Tony says:
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    I agree it was a great interview. I also agree, this being Phelps final meet is the real story in London. But, I was a bit disappointed to not hear Lochte’s name (am I mistaken? I was a bit distracted when it was on) I would find it hard to believe losing to Lochte twice was not a significant motivating factor for him. If the story was about his motiviation, that part should not have been left out.

  4. Gold Medal Mel Stewart says:
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    Liliana….on deck Michael seems more at ease and happy. I think he’s enjoying the sport now more than he ever has.

    8 for 8 golds again? It’s not out of the question, though it’ll be 10-times harder.

    • junker23 says:
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      There’s no way, right? He’d only be the overwhelming favorite in what, 3 of 8 events right now? (100/200 Fly and 4×200 Relay)

      Obviously we’ll know more after Trials, but it seems waaaaaaaay less likely this time.

  5. Chris DeSantis says:
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    We are going to miss Michael dearly as USA Swimming fans when he retires. To all those who have had the chance to see him: watch closely because you may never see another like him!

  6. Rick Paine says:
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    Phelps has come a long way in his interviews. It is nice to see swimming get some good press instead of the problems we have been having with the coaches lately. Bob did a good job too and was pretty entertaining.

  7. Jay says:
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    I think we should hold off in saying that it could “never” be done again. Anyone thinking in 4 years Missy couldn’t take a run at 8 or more golds? Thinking 50-100-200 free 100-200 back 200IM.
    Michael has done more for this sport outside the pool and that was the only thig missing from the interview I felt. I would give the piece an A-.

  8. JackedAndTan says:
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    What pains me most is that we never saw him seriously branch out into the backstrokes (only a couple world class times in ’07 and a would’ve-been silver in ’04 had he swum it) and more significantly SHORT COURSE METERS!! It’s so sad to speculate what could’ve been some spectacular world records (and battles with Lochte etc) never happened because he always stayed away or swam untapered. Truly a great loss for the record books and therefore the history of swimming. Imagine a 1.48 200 fly

  9. john26 says:
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    I definitely think there were 2 moments where he could’ve conceivably taken up backstroke.
    1) weak one, but judging from how he swam in 07, and dropping about a second in each of his 200m events, you figure that he could probably have swam a 153mid and won the 200back. Anyone 50 years down the line thinking of going for 9 golds could take advantage of this.

    2) 2010, this was the strongest one I felt. I was actually very shocked to see Phelps not swim the 100back at Panpcs, all season he was swimming 49lows in the 100free, and 52.0s in the 100fly. He proceeded to dropping approx a second in each of those events. He was about 53.7 in season, and I figured if he had swum the 100back, he probably would’ve won. The 200back, IMO is a dead option if 200IM is his priority, but I think if he saw that he could do 52mid in 2010, he would’ve had thoughts he could’ve been world champion, and eventually olympics champion.

    Oh well, at the moment, it would be very difficult to convince me that he’s not going to swim the schedule he did in Shanghai

  10. bobo gigi says:
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    Great article Braden. I have watched the video. I haven’t all understood, I’m french but I have understood the essential. Michael Phelps will be ready at the olympic games. I like the answers of Bob Bowman too. He looks very confident about his swimmer. 9/10 for the level of shape. The other swimmers can be afraid of that. Michael Phelps is a legend, has nothing to prove and will swim at the olympic games for bonus and without stress. It’s scary for his opponents.

  11. cupofjoe says:
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    Nice interview by 60 minutes but I agree they should have done something with the Lochte rivalry. I guess they will let NBC promote that. It has been an unreal pleasure to watch Phelps throughout his career. I go back to the Spitz, Gary Hall Sr. days and there really has been nobody like Phelps. He is the best combination of talent, racing ability and performance in the high pressure moments. Spitz was probably comparable in talent but he had many more ups and downs and a much shorter career. Lochte is the closest in the racing category combined with talent. The only thing I think we missed from Phelps–and I wonder if he regrets this–is no college swimming. What an unbelievable NCAA swimmer he would have been. Can’t wait for Omaha–and London.

    • ndb says:
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      I agree in a selfish way that It would have been great to see Phelps in college swimming. It is hard to argue with his decision though. I do,however, think it is a shame for anyone to miss out on what I believe to be the most exciting format in the sport of swimming. I say this without ever having been an elite level swimmer and being a part of a us national team or Olympic team.

      I guess you have to Make the money while you can! It would be foolish to pass up four years of big time income when the window is so small.

  12. coacherik says:
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    Coach Paine, didn’t realize you perused the interwebs with the rest of us kids…

    Very nicely done. Hearing from Bowman and how concerned he was and the honesty of it all was good to see. Even two years ago Phelps wasn’t this good in front of the camera, his bottoming out helped his maturity and growth in all aspects.

    They probably talked about the “rivalry” but left it out because they don’t seem to have one. Every time it is brought up, they play it down and that it isn’t a rivalry at all. Was it a motivator? Probably. But every one of these guys hates losing. I think it could have been any one of his events, but the fire may have been stoked even greater since Lochte took the WR right in front of him in the 200IM and blew his doors off on the third 50 of the 200 free at WCs too.

    I was not a fan of Phelps at all from 2009 through most of 2011. He had every right to have a let down with the historical meet he had in 2008, but the competing poorly with inconsistent practice, no call/no shows was what aggravated me. As a coach, it was like seeing a surgeon working in a butcher shop, a waste of talent. I am glad to see this transformation, the stories of his attitude on deck and at meets with kids is nice to hear as well. He is actually enjoying the sport and being the all-around ambassador all us naysayers had hoped for.

    Looking forward to Omaha and London.

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    Great video…Watching him be just like the rest of us…uhh Human is great. How many swimmers never did what he did in college? It show how far he has come and how much he has done for the sport of swimming. Listen, it’s a brutal sport and he swim the hardest races…it must have been great to take a break from the sport and re-group…Bob was very mellow but you know he was going crazy not knowing if he was coming back….He did a great job at improving his interview skills…cool…

  14. Mark says:
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    I can’t believe the “Marijuana incident” is such a big deal. It could have been a great opportunity for the media to say, hey… maybe this drug is less addicting than caffeine and virtually harmless compared to cheeseburgers. The greatest athlete in the world cuts loose?? Who would have thought? After that picture came out and they gave the poor kid so much flack, I donated everything I could to his foundation.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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