Michael Phelps wondered if watching others compete at the world championships would pique his desire for another comeback.
Phelps said Tuesday he has “no desire” to return to competitive swimming, but he is eager to stay involved with the sport and cheer on those who follow in his enormous wake.
In an interview with The Associated Press while promoting a healthy pet food campaign, Phelps said he is excited about having his second child and building a life beyond swimming.
“For me, it’s about being happy where I am and happy where my family is,” Phelps said. “We have more goals we want to accomplish outside the sport.”
It was around this time four years ago when Phelps got serious about ending his first retirement, but he now seems content with his decision to step away again after the Rio Olympics.
His wife, Nicole, is about four months pregnant. The couple already have a 16-month-old son, Boomer.
“I’ve got no desire — no desire — to come back,” the 32-year-old Phelps said flatly.
Phelps has attended a handful of swimming meets since the Rio Games, where the winningest athlete in Olympic history added to his already massive career haul by claiming five gold medals plus a silver. A few months ago, he conceded to the AP that he wasn’t sure how he would feel about a possible comeback after watching the worlds in Budapest, Hungary.
“We’ll see if I get that itch,” he said in April.
Turns out, it had no impact.
Phelps said the second-biggest meet after the Olympics “truly didn’t kick anything off or spike any more interest in coming out of retirement again.”
He is excited to follow the development of his heir apparent, Caeleb Dressel, who emerged as the sport’s newest star by winning seven gold medals at Budapest.
The 21-year-old Floridian joined Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only swimmers to accomplish that feat at a major international meet.
“I’m happy Caeleb decided to go off this year instead of last year,” quipped Phelps, who won 23 golds and 28 medals overall in his Olympic career. “I’m kind of happy to see him swimming so well when I’m not there.”
While he still travels extensively for his many sponsors, Phelps said he’s much more involved in his wife’s second pregnancy than he was before Boomer’s birth, when he was consumed by full-scale training for the Olympics.
“It’s definitely different going through it again,” he said.
Boomer, meanwhile, is a chip off the old block.
“He skipped the walking part and went right to running,” Phelps said, chuckling. “He just scoots around the house. It’s funny when we get him in the pool. He basically just splashes around the whole time. He’s literally nonstop. As soon as he wakes up from a nap or his night’s sleep, he’s just go, go, go. There’s no time for slow moving in our family. He likes to go fast. I guess that’s a good thing.”
Boomer is even starting to show some good form in the pool. His mom and Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, have detected a bit of the stroke that was his father’s strongest.
“Nicole and Bob both say he’s got a good butterfly technique that he’s working on,” Phelps said. “I guess he’s seen his dad doing it a couple of times and kind of picks it up. He’s also now in a stage where it’s like all five senses are coming together. He feels everything, recognizes everything. It’s really fun to watch, as a dad, just watching these transitions in his life.”
In his latest business endeavor, Phelps is spearheading a marketing campaign for Nulo Pet Food, which he describes as a healthy alternative for dogs and cats. He’s an investor in the company and accompanied in ads by his French bulldogs, Juno and Legend.
“Our bodies are like a high-performance car. You have to make sure you’re putting the correct fuel in your body,” Phelps said. “We obviously treat our pets like human beings. I’d like my animals to be fed in the right way, with good nutrition and healthy foods. If we can do that with a company that’s putting good, natural ingredients into a pet food, it makes sense for me with what I’m doing in my own life. It’s something that goes hand in hand.”
With Dressel and Katie Ledecky now leading the American team, the U.S. is expected to remain the world’s dominant swimming country heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Even without Phelps.
“It’s time to kind of move on,” he said, “and watch other people come into their own.”