After winning 28 Olympic medals, Michael Phelps has just said he is ready to retire, again.
“Done, done, done — and this time I mean it,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Monday. He reiterated it during a Facebook Live session. But this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Phelps say he’s leaving his sport, after spending 24 years as its poster child.
After the 2012 London Olympics, the heavily-decorated swimmer made the same statement — also to Matt Lauer.
“I’m done. I’m finished. I’m retired. I’m done. No more,” he told TODAY four years ago. He has said that he was “ready to move on” at that point, having already broken plenty of records and racked up plenty of medals at that point, thanks to swimming in three consecutive Olympics — already an impressive feat.
“I just wanted to be done with swimming and didn’t want anything to do with the sport anymore,” he said of his mindset at the time. Following a DUI arrest and his time in rehab in 2014, as well as the rekindling of his relationship with Nicole Johnson and the birth of their son Boomer, however, Phelps came back stronger and more focused than ever.
Even back in 2008 after Beijing, Phelps drifted away from the pool, discontinuing his training; he said he was in “La-La Land” and had lost focus. But once he found goals to apply his energy toward, he jumped right back in.
Not even his teammates are taking him at his word this time around. Katie Ledecky, the women’s swimming phenomenon, suggested you just never know when he’ll really stick to his retirement plans.
“Last time was his last, this time was his last, and I get to say I was on the same team twice when he retired,” Ledecky told The Washington Post over the weekend. “Maybe there will be a third time. All records are made to be broken.”
Meanwhile, his other teammate, competitor, roommate, and friend Ryan Lochte has challenged Phelps to a re-match of their rivalry in Tokyo in 2020; Lochte’s own sights are already set on that new goal, and he said he could “guarantee” Phelps would be there, too. And just before arriving in Rio, Phelps told reporters that this would be his “potential” final Olympic appearance. “Just so you guys don’t beat me to death if I come back,” he said.
As we’ve seen with Phelps over and over again, only time will tell what the Greatest Olympian of All Time will ultimately choose to do.