Phelps on his final Olympics: 'I have a job to finish here'

TODAY special correspondent Ryan Seacrest chats with 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps about his goal to become the most decorated Olympian of all time as he reveals that thinking of the London Olympics as his last is "kind of emotional."

As anticipation mounts for the opening of the Games, even a legend with more gold medals than anyone else in the history of the Summer Olympics has to find a way to pass the time.

Michael Phelps may be only three medals shy of becoming the most decorated Olympian history, but for his first few days in the Olympic Village in London, he has been more like a college sophomore hanging out between summer classes. Passing the hours in a sweltering dorm room, Phelps has been spending his time with a New Mexico high school teacher and some Baltimore cops.

“I started The Wire and Breaking Bad,’’ Phelps told TODAY special correspondent Ryan Seacrest Wednesday. “(Just doing) a little bit of sitting around and just watching shows and movies.’’

Jeff Haynes / Reuters

Ryan Lochte (left) and Michael Phelps check their times during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, June 26, 2012. The two rivals will vie head to head at the Summer Games.

Phelps has broken a sweat without even leaving his room: There's A/C in the Olympic Village amid temperatures in the low 80s, and even millionaire athletes like Phelps had to adjust as if they were average college freshmen.

“We walked in and tried to crank the thermostat down, but nothing was happening all day, and they told us in the meeting that we have no air-conditioning,’’ Phelps said. “I think everybody on the team has a little college dorm fan that rotates, so we have some air circulating. Everybody has to deal with it.’’

Once the action gets started, Phelps plans on swimming seven events after winning a record eight gold medals in 2008 in Beijing. In the 200 and 400 medleys, he will go head to head with teammate Ryan Lochte in the most anticipated rivalry in London.

Phelps, 27, has already announced that this will be his fourth and final Olympics. Having already won 16 medals in his career, he is three away from passing Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian of all time.  

“It’s kind of been weird,’’ Phelps said about his final Games. “We’ve said like, ‘This is my last Tuesday afternoon workout,’ or ‘This is my last double.’ It’s cool to say, but it’s also kind of emotional. One thing that I’m looking forward to this week is having a lot of good memories and having a lot of good moments, and (I) hope I finish my career with some good swims.”

Phelps swam well enough to qualify in eight events at the U.S. Olympic trials, but he admitted to starting from scratch with his breaststroke technique in preparing for London as well as tweaking some other aspects of his stroke.

“Physically I’m a lot better than I was (at the trials),’’ he said. “Mentally, part of it is coming day by day, (and) being able to visualize my races and prepare myself for what could happen, what I want to happen and what I don’t want to happen.’’

Phelps trained in the London Aquatics Centre alongside Lochte on Tuesday, getting his first glimpse of the setting for one of the hottest tickets in London.

“It’s overwhelming,’’ Phelps said. “The deck space is kind of small, but you look up on both side of the stands, and there are a lot of stands up there. Hopefully we can have some loud cheering over here, and hopefully that place will be rocking. I remember back in 2000 (in Sydney), you could feel the floor shaking.’’

When the smoke clears from Phelps’s quest for history in the new few weeks, he will take the time to contemplate his accomplishments. Right now, it’s all about business.  

“I think a lot of things I’ve done through my career haven’t sunk in yet,’’ he said. “I guess the more I move through my life, I think some of those moments will sink in even more. I have a job to finish here. That’s why I’m setting out on Saturday to start my journey, and hopefully it’s a good one.”

After more than a decade of having his life centered around his training and a clear goal in sight, Phelps is looking forward to a blank schedule once the Games conclude. He will be on Season 5 of The Wire before he knows it. 

“We have a couple trips booked, and I’m looking forward to just pretty much relaxing and doing whatever I want to do and going wherever I want to go,’’ Phelps said.

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Discuss this post

Michael you are an amazing athlete. I am always in awe at your accomplishments. Good luck and I wish you the best!

    Reply#1 - Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:58 AM EDT

    Just what the h*ll's going on in London? First, they come up woefully short on the number of their security force and now they can't even do something so basic as to maintain room temperatures at an optimum level, a temperature that will allow these athletes--who've spent years in preparation--to get the best possible sleep??

    Question: Could they have thought up a better way to take the edge off their performance levels?

    • 2 votes
    Reply#2 - Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:25 PM EDT

    Michael is a great olympian. May his movie, book and movie do well.

      Reply#3 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:37 PM EDT
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