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Michael Phelps passes torch, talks about finale and the future

August 04, 2012|By Lisa Dillman
  • Michael Phelps acknowledges the cheers after FINA, the governing body of swimming, presented him with a lifetime achievement award following the 400-meter medley relay in London.
Michael Phelps acknowledges the cheers after FINA, the governing body… (Clive Rose / Getty Images )

LONDON -- Somehow, it was fitting that swim icon Michael Phelps had his London Olympics wrap-up news conference before teenage star Missy Franklin on Saturday night at the Main Press Centre.

After all, isn't this all about passing the torch?

"It's wild ... couldn’t ask to finish on a better note,” said Phelps, who wrapped up his swimming career with one more medal Saturday, a gold in the 400-meter medley relay. "I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m very happy.

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"It’s hard for me to grasp everything right now. I’m not sure where my emotions are, but I don’t think everything has really struck me yet, of what’s happened. I’m sure over the next couple of days things will really start to settle in."

Phelps, who won six medals (four gold) in London and has 22 overall (18 gold), talked about his emotions on the medal podium, listening to the national anthem as a gold medalist for one final time.

"As soon as I stepped up on the podium, I could feel the tears start coming," he said. "I said to Nathan [Adrian], 'Uh oh, here they come. This could be pretty brutal.' They just started coming.  I tried to fight it, but I decided to just let it go. Whatever happens happens and just take in these last couple memories and moments of my swimming career."

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He made the point of long ago having drawn the line in his mind of not swimming past age 30. He is short of that, of course, having just turned 27 on June 30.

But three more years has a way of turning into four. Phelps can't be blamed for not wanting to go to Rio.

"I’m sure if I wanted to [compete], I still could go," he said. "I’m ready to be done. I’m ready to retire. I’m ready to move on to other things. I'm very satisfied. I'm very happy with it.

"I’m kind of relaxed now. It’s kind of weird. I’m a lot more relaxed than I thought I would be in this moment. I thought I would be a lot more emotional. I'm just not. It will probably hit me hard over the next couple of days."

Phelps is leaving the sport in robust shape.

Team USA won 30 medals in swimming, 16 of them gold. The gold-medal count four years ago in Beijing was 12, and Phelps was responsible for eight.

"Our team has come a long ways," he said. "We have a lot of rookies on our team. A lot of younger swimmers. They’ve been able to come into the spotlight and swim awesome. Look at Missy, look at Allison [Schmitt], look at Katie [Ledecky].

"All these people have been able to step up at the highest level whether it’s their first Olympics or second. They’ve been able to take over the leadership role of having a bunch of us pass the torch to them. I think it’s pretty special."


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