LONDON — Michael Phelps wants to swim.
Not in a pool, though. The world’s most decorated Olympian wants to swim freely in the ocean.
“Spending 20 years staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool is a long time,” he said. “Now I’m happy and ready to move on to the next chapter.”
Phelps won his 22nd medal Saturday night, making Sunday afternoon his first day of retirement. Despite the pressure of being dubbed the “the world’s greatest Olympian,” Phelps appeared calm.
He even got in a few jokes.
“I don’t even know what to do now,” he said. “I’m restless.”
For a man who has spent most of his life waking up at 6 a.m. and swimming late into the night, restlessness is an entirely new feeling. However, it’s a feeling he welcomes with open arms — 6 feet, 10 inches worth of open arms, to be exact.
“I’ve done everything that I’ve wanted to do in the sport, competition-wise. I can look back and say that everything I’ve put my mind to, I’ve been able to do,” he said.
That includes 18 gold medals among his collection of 22, a staggering 12 pounds worth of Olympic history. He also changed the face of swimming in the world. About a decade ago, Australia reigned supreme in the sport.
Like his idol, Michael Jordan, who redefined greatness in basketball, Phelps wanted to leave a mark in swimming.
“I’ve always looked up to Michael Jordan. He was the greatest in his sport, the first,” he said. “I’m the first Michael Phelps. I’m the first of a lot of things, which is something I’m proud of.”
After hiding his medals in a safe, “secret” place, Phelps plans to continue his life of firsts by finally becoming a good golfer, taking vacations and beating his mom at Words With Friends.
But swimming isn’t completely out of his life. He’s going to actively work with the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes swimming and healthy, active lives for children, and stay in shape.
“The competitive part of my career is over, but it doesn’t mean that I’m done with the sport,” he said. “I’m still going to go with my goal and try to take the sport to a new level.
“It hasn’t reached the peak that I want it to reach, and it will also be fun for me to watch it from the outside.”