Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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 -- and certainly doesn't miss the grind of what it took to become the most winningest Olympian ever -- 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 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, when he insisted his goal to quit swimming before he turned 30.
Phelps will be 31 at the time of the opening ceremony in Rio.
"I don't know. We're in 2013," he said, before adding, "There's nothing in the works right now."
Phelps certainly isn't training at the moment. He jammed the small toe of his right foot on the edge of a sofa while at home in Baltimore, and aggravated the injury when he played in a golf tournament at Lake Tahoe.
He's wearing a boot cast while in Barcelona to cope with a small stress fracture.
After some sightseeing and promotional appearances, Phelps took in a second night of swimming at the Palau Sant Jordi before getting ready to head back to the U.S. on Tuesday. He was accompanied by his new girlfriend, Golf Channel reporter Win McMurry.
"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. But he's still trying to sort out where he wants to go in his life.
While passionate about golf, the game has clearly humbled him since London.
"It's probably the most humbling thing I've ever done, the most humbling sport I've ever done," he said.
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.
While vague on a possible comeback, Phelps was downright candid with this thoughts about the relay -- perhaps because the coach of the U.S. men's team is Bob Bowman, who was Phelps' longtime coach and remains a business partner.
Phelps made his feelings known to Bowman in a series of blunt texts, suggesting the Americans should have gone with a different order.
"We have enough guys on that team who can swim faster than that, and that was just frustrating for me to watch," Phelps said.
Not frustrating enough to announce his comeback.
Not yet anyway.