Another gold for Michael Phelps – a phrase that has become commonplace, and even cliché, throughout the past 12 years of his career. It is also a phrase Olympic swimming may never hear again.
The most decorated Olympian in the history of the Games retired after his final race on Saturday, the 4×100-meter relay, in which the U.S. claimed yet another gold medal. For Phelps, it was his 23rd medal and 18th gold.
“I couldn’t ask to finish on a better note than I did,” Phelps said. “I don’t think everything has really hit in or struck me yet with what happened, but I am sure the next couple of days things will really start to settle in.”
He added that he just gave in while he was standing on the podium for the last time receiving his gold medal, and he “just let it go.”
“I thought that this could be pretty brutal, and (the tears) just started coming,” he said. “I tried to fight it, but I just decided to just let it go and whatever happened, happened. And I was just taking in the last couple moments and memories of my swim career.”
The 27-year-old could easily continue swimming and compete in the Rio Games in 2016, but he said he has hit his age limit.
“I have always said to myself that I would never swim after the age of 30, and I want to be done before I hit the age of 30,” he said. “It’s just something I have always said throughout my career, and I have been fortunate to look back at my career and say that I have been able to accomplish every goal that I have ever wanted to.”
Phelps started his Olympic career 12 years ago in Sydney with the 200-meter backstroke that helped him win his first medal. Back then, he was a 15-year old with a ton of energy. Now he wants to enjoy traveling a little bit and avoid the rigorous training that swimming demands.
“I have seen so many great places in the world, but I have never really gotten to experience them,” he said. He wants to travel throughout Europe, Australia and Africa, even go cage diving with the Great White Shark in South Africa.
Phelps also said he wants to work on his foundation and help promote a healthier lifestyle to the younger generation.
As the most-decorated Olympian of all time, Phelps said he is ready to pass the torch on to the younger swimmers on the U.S. team.
“I am ready to be done; I am ready to retire and move onto new things,” he said. “This is one of our best Olympic teams we’ve ever had. We have a lot of rookies on our team and a lot of younger swimmers. They have sort of been able to take over the leadership role of sort of passing the torch to them. It’s pretty special.”