Michael Phelps on swimming career, his life, diet, and Katie Ledecky


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The most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps says he’s
done competing.

After winning five golds and a silver at Rio 2016, Phelps hung up
his suit and moved onto the second stage of his career.

That second stage includes many projects, from running his
foundation, starting a swimwear line, raising a family, and most
recently, working with Colgate on water conservation campaign
called “Save Water.”

Phelps spoke with Business Insider about the importance of water
conservation, his life after swimming, his notorious diet, Katie
Ledecky, and the future of US swimming.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and
clarity.

Scott Davis: 
What attracted you to
this campaign with Colgate about water conservation?

Michael Phelps: “It was something that as soon
as I heard about it I was super excited about having the
opportunity to be a part of. For me, obviously, I’ve been around
water for most of my life and I know how much of an important
resource it is. To be able to kind of help people understand just
more about it and how much actual water we’re truly wasting on
just some of the small things that we do every single day.
Whether it’s just brushing your teeth and leaving the water
running, that right there is four gallons down the drain. So it’s
like all these little, small things that end up really adding up.

“When you have hundreds of millions of people, not only in the
US, but all over the world, we’re wasting a lot of water. And
it’s something that we all can work together to really try to
change. It’s a couple small things that we can do. For me,
growing our family now, it’s something that [Phelps’ son] Boomer
is very aware of, just because he watches and sees us do it every
day. And now, getting ready to be a family of four, the craziest
stat is, a family of four uses roughly 400 gallons per day. And
who knows how much of that is actually wasted or used. I think
it’s something that we can all join together and make sure we’re
conserving as much as we can, but also to teach people that every
drop does count.”

Davis:When would you say you first started becoming aware
and involved in environmental causes?

Phelps: “Like I said, I’ve been around
water my whole life, so I basically really learned at a young age
the importance of it but also one day, at one point, clean water
will be hard to find. There’s so many people throughout the world
that don’t have access to clean water. Obviously we’re extremely
fortunate to have the opportunities that we have and to have all
the water that we have. Like I said, and I can’t say it enough,
we all should work together to try and conserve as much as we
possible can.”



Michael Phelps and son BoomerDia Dipasupil/Getty Images for
Huggies


Davis: What do you find yourself doing with your time
now? Are you still training, do you have future plans in
swimming?

Phelps: “I am back in the retirement days of my
life from the sport of swimming. I think for me, the big thing of
why I wanted to come back was I wanted to kind of finish my
career on my terms and my way. I think after preparing myself how
I did really the last two-plus years going into Rio, I have a
feeling that 20 years down the road, I’ll be able to look back
and be able to be happy with how or when I hung my suit up. And I
am right now.

“A lot of people have asked if I’m coming back or coming out of
retirement. I feel like I could swim again, but I just don’t want
to. I feel like it’s time to start the second chapter of my life
and kind of continuing things that I’m so passionate about,
whether it’s teaching people about water conservation, or mental
health, or learn to swim, continuing to build a swimming brand.”

Davis: 
Are there any new hobbies
you’ve picked up with your free time now?

Phelps: “Not really. I would say I’ve continued
to work out and I’ve had the chance to play golf a little bit
more now. But other than that, it’s really spending a lot of time
traveling. I’m very fortunate to be able to have my family with
me sometimes, but other than that, it’s pretty typical [laughs].”

Davis: 
How does your diet now
compare to when you were training? You obviously had a very
famous diet for several years.

Phelps: “It’s a lot different now than what it
once was. Now I’m really just trying to eat more clean, but also
to just get what I need. I think for so long eating was like a
job. Because I was always trying to maintain a weight, but it was
just frustrating to constantly shove calories down your system.
For so long, that’s what it was, a job. So now, just being able
to get nutrients that I need. It’s not 8,000-10,000 calories like
it once was. I would say, ‘the normal diet.’ I don’t know what
that is, but I would say it’s more typical.”

Davis: US Soccer didn’t qualify the World Cup. I feel
like soccer and swimming are both a little more off the radar for
the main sports in the US, but US Swimming dominates while soccer
has struggled. Why do you think that is?

Phelps: “I think for swimming, if you look at
the history just throughout the sport, we’ve basically been the
best country in the world. I think a lot of national team members
will tell you, we wanna keep that tradition alive. For the
roughly 20 years I was on the national team, that was what we
always wanted to do, we wanted to be the best. It is a very
solitary sport, I guess in a way, besides relays, and we are all
working toward the same goal of representing our country the best
way we can. We’re able and have been able, through the whole
history of the sport, to prove to the world that the US does have
the best swimming team. I’d like to see it continue, hopefully it
does. I’m always available if any of those guys need help. Some
of the things that I’ve gone through, they might see first hand,
so hopefully we can continue to build.”

Davis: 
Who are some of the young
stars that fans should get to know now for the 2020
Olympics?

Phelps:“Obviously you have to say Katie. Ledecky
has just been on fire the last couple of years. I think you’ll
really see Caeleb Dressel kind of come into the party more and
more and he’s starting to swim more and more events. It’ll be fun
to watch those two. But honestly we have so many great leaders on
our team now. And I’m sure in a couple years we’re gonna see a
lot of fresh faces and there is a lot of young talent out there
that has the opportunity to kind of take over their event in the
swimming world and hopefully bring back a gold medal for the
country.”


katie ledeckyAdam
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Davis: 
There’s a lot of examples of
Ledecky’s greatness and dominance, from the world records to
pushing guy swimmers in practices. Is there a moment that sticks
out as most impressive to you?

Phelps: “It’s a combination of everything. I’ve
had the chance to train with her and I’ve had the chance to watch
her compete the last couple of years. She’s someone that’s very
goal-oriented. When she writes a time down or she writes a major
milestone down, she’s gonna do whatever she can to make sure that
happens. I’ve only seen that really a couple times in the sport.
So it’s a true treat for me to be able to see her kind of truly
coming up in the sport like she is.

“It’s gonna be interesting to see where she goes over the next
couple of years. Obviously she’s gonna have the chance to swim
anything from the 100-free all the way up to the mile, plus a
couple relays, so a heavy workload and potentially the chance to
win seven or eight gold medals.”

Davis: 
Will you feel competitive if
she starts pushing your medal record?

Phelps: “I mean, I’ve always said that records
are made to be broken. If it happens, great, I’d love to be there
to watch it and witness some of the greats that are probably
gonna be in the sport over the next couple of decades.

“It’s also getting more challenging I think just because, I guess
you have so many people that are starting to specialize in one
event or two events. When you start building a program like that,
when you’re swimming seven or eight races, it’s just a
combination of everything, mental, physical, emotions. that
really have to be pretty much perfect throughout that whole
eight-day program. I would love to see it, I would enjoy watching
it, and I hope somebody has that chance to make history again.”

Davis: W
hen 2020 rolls around will you
feel the pull of the pool? Will you have trouble staying
away?

Phelps: “No [laughs].

“No, not at all. And like I said, being able to look back, I
think I always wanted to hang my suit up at the right time, what
I thought was the right time, and for me, having the opportunity
to come back and swim one more and have that Olympics be as good
as it was, for me, that’s all I could really ask for.”

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