Despite his relative youth and recent success at the 2012 London Olympics, the Baltimore Bullet is already squashing rumors that he’ll compete again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During his trip to Brazil to accept the Exceptional Achievement Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards, Phelps left little doubt about his future in swimming.
“It has been an amazing career, and it is crazy to think that it is over,” Phelps said, via United Press International. “But I’ve done everything that I wanted to do in sport. I wanted to change swimming and take it to a level, and I have. But I will continue to be a part of sport and help grow sports. That is a goal and a passion of mine.” He also added that he planned to attend the 2016 games as a spectator.
While the 18-time gold medalist has been adamant about his desire to retire from competition since the 2012 Olympics ended, other Team USA swimmers don’t seem entirely convinced. In December, fellow gold medalist Ryan Lochte got the rumor mill churning by stating his belief that Phelps would indeed be returning to the pool.
"He is one of my favorite rivals, and I will miss him. But I think he will come back,” Lochte told the Telegraph. “When you do something for so long every day ... he's still young. I think he will be back for Rio. We'll see. He'll miss the sport.''
Furthermore, Phelps has already considered retirement once before, only to return to swimming’s biggest stage. In an interview with the Washington Post, he admitted to nearly retiring prior to the 2012 Olympic Games, only to be coaxed back by the efforts of NFL legend Ray Lewis. “He just helped me get through a lot of hard times, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him,” Phelps said.
Even Lewis might not be able to change his mind this time, but we won’t count America’s most decorated Olympian out until the opening ceremony in Rio begins.