U.S. swimming icon Michael Phelps has confirmed to CNN that he will now retire from competition, having became the most decorated Olympian of all time with six medals at London 2012.
The man known as “The Baltimore Bullet” claimed his 22nd medal by winning gold as part of the U.S. 4 x 100m medley relay team on Saturday, but Phelps confirmed he has no desire to add to that tally in Rio in 2016.
“I’m done, that was my last race and this is my last Olympics,” confirmed the 27-year-old. “I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”
Phelps will leave London with four more gold medals, taking his career total to an unparalleled 18, after delivering a string of performances which silenced a growing number of doubters.
“Looking back, I can say I’ve done everything I ever wanted to,” said Phelps, who won medals at three consecutive Olympics after making his debut as a 15-year-old at Sydney 2000.
Ryan Lochte, a winner of two golds in the British capital, was tipped by many to outshine his compatriot, while Yannick Agnel also rose to prominence by winning the 200m freestyle race and anchoring France’s victorious 4 x 200m freestyle relay.
“Ryan and I like racing each other,” Phelps said. “We bring the best out of each other. It’s fun racing him, he’s tough. He swims a lot of events, just like I do. We had the chance to go head-to-head quite a few times.”
On the future of men’s swimming, Phelps said he is looking forward to taking a back seat and watching new rivalries like the one between Lochte and Agnel develop over the next four years.
“We saw some amazing times in the pool this year. I said to Yannick that his 200m free was probably one of the top five greatest swims of all time.
“It’s going to be cool watching these swimmers grow over the next four years and seeing the times they swim. That’s definitely something I’ll stay in tune with and check out what’s going on.”
One swimmer who has grown at the Games is China’s Ye Shiwen, the 16-year-old who stunned the world when she swam the last 50m of her 400m individual medley heat quicker than Lochte in the corresponding men’s race.
The stunning feat led to suspicions of doping, although there is no evidence to suggest the double Olympic champion has taken any performance-enhancing substance.
“It’s kind of sad that people have a great swim and that’s the first thing they say,” said Phelps.
“People who work hard — it shows. There are people who just jump to that conclusion sometimes, and it’s not right.
“Being able to watch her was amazing, I’m happy I actually out-split her over the last 100 … almost every guy in the 400 IM got out-split by her.”