BARCELONA, Spain — When Michael Phelps walked away from swimming after the London Olympics, he was adamant about one thing: His career was over. Now, it sounds like he’s not so sure.
While saying he’s never been happier with his life – and certainly doesn’t miss the grind of what it took to become the most winningest athlete in Olympic history – Phelps left the door open to change his mind before the 2016 Rio Games.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Phelps said Monday. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
In Barcelona for the world swimming championships, Phelps spoke to The Associated Press and other international media organizations in a series of one-on-one interviews set up by his sponsor, Speedo.
When asked by the AP, yes or no, whether he’ll compete at the next Olympics, Phelps coyly said he hasn’t planned that far ahead in his life.
That’s a striking change from his comments before and immediately after the London Games Phelps will be 31 at the time of the opening ceremony for the Rio Games.
There’s plenty of time for a comeback. Phelps would likely want to begin training before the end of the year, which would allow him to get into peak condition leading up to the next world championships in 2015.
Phelps certainly isn’t training at the moment. “I have no plans to do anything,” Phelps said. “I love what I’m doing now. I’m able to travel so much, play golf. I’m on my schedule. ”
He does have some projects away from the pool, including a series of swim schools and a foundation devoted to water safety. He said those are fulfilling projects, but he’s still trying to sort out where he wants to go in his life.
“Peter (Carlisle, his agent) asked me where I want to be in one year, five years and 10 years,” Phelps said. “I’m still in the process of putting everything down on paper.”
Phelps’ competitive side showed after the U.S. men lost in the 400-meter freestyle relay on Sunday. The Americans were edged at the finish by the French, a repeat of last summer’s Olympics when a team that included Phelps also settled for silver.
“We should never lose that relay with the talent we have on the team,” he said.
Phelps was downright candid with this thoughts about the relay – perhaps because the head coach of the U.S. men’s team is Bob Bowman, who was Phelps’ longtime coach and remains a good friend and business partner.
Phelps made his feelings known to Bowman in a series of blunt texts, suggesting the Americans should have gone with Jimmy Feigen in the leadoff spot and Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian as the anchor.
Instead, Adrian went first and Feigen took over for the finish despite being the least experienced member of the U.S. foursome. He acknowledged paying too much attention to the teams next to him, the Australians and the Russians, and not noticing the French coming up in an outside lane until it was too late.
“I was so fired up,” Phelps said. “We have enough guys on that team who can swim faster than that, and that was just frustrating for me to watch.”
Not frustrating enough to announce his comeback.
Not yet anyway.