Michael Phelps is giving himself one last chance to get his Olympic farewell right.
It seems an odd aim for the owner of a record 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.
Four gold medals and two silver in London in 2012 seemed a fitting enough finale to a career that peaked with Phelps’s stunning eight-gold performance in Beijing.
However, Phelps knew deep down that he could have done more four years ago, and that “haunted” feeling made it impossible for his post-London retirement to stick.
“I never wanted to have that ‘what if,’” Phelps said of his decision to mount a fifth Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro, at the age of 31. “This journey has been incredible. Being able to fall in love with the sport again is something that I have always wanted to do, and I did it on my terms.”
However, his comeback has been far from smooth — disrupted by a drink-driving arrest that sparked a painful period of self-examination.
Phelps has emerged stronger, his renewed relationship with his estranged father resonating even more after the birth of his own son, Boomer, with fiancee Nicole Johnson in May.
“It is a cool thing for Nicole and I, for where we are in our lives,” Phelps said.
His relationship with long-time coach Bob Bowman endures, with Phelps voicing absolute trust in Bowman’s ability to prepare him for his last Olympic hurrah.
He has a chance to make more history as he seeks a fourth straight gold in the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley.
The only Olympians to win four consecutive titles in the same individual event are athletes Al Oerter in the discus (1956-1968) and Carl Lewis in the long jump (1984-1996).
Phelps would love to avenge his 2012 loss to South African Chad le Clos in the 200m fly — the first event Phelps ever swam in the Olympics — in Sydney in 2000.
At the peak of his career, Phelps said he was out to change his sport.
He has done so, raising swimming’s profile in the US with displays of individual excellence as well as thrilling duels with the likes of Ryan Lochte and Milorad Cavic.
The US Olympic trials are one testament to his success, drawing upward of 14,000 fans per session.
However, his more lasting legacy is found in the swimmers he inspired — some of whom, like Le Clos, he is to race in Rio and some of whom have yet to reach the international stage.
Once the most intimidating man in the ready-room, Phelps has said he wants to mentor younger swimmers. For the first time, he has been selected by his peers to serve as a captain of the US men’s team.
“I just want to be able to help some of the younger guys,” he said.
With swimming heading “in a direction I love,” Phelps said there is “still more” for him to do.
“Do I know what that is right now? No, but I still feel that we can do more to promote this sport, even to another level than where we are right now,” he said.
However, Phelps insists he knows what his future contribution will not include — another competitive campaign.
“This is it. This is it — no more,” he said. “The body is done. This is my last one.”
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first