Michael Phelps: The Multi-Million dollar Tokyo 2020 question
Michael Phelps goes to many different places, but the question is almost always the same.
Anything can set the speculation off and even the slightest aside from the most decorated Olympian ever can melt the internet.
Like this social media post.
Just look at the shape Michael Phelps is in, he's 33 but he looks in even better nick than 25-year-old Rio silver medallist Chase Kalisz!
Phelps must be training for a comeback, he and Usain Bolt are going to crash the party and take over Tokyo.
"I've lost it, so no comeback you guys"
Even when Phelps states it as plainly as that, the speculation doesn't end.
In March 2019 Phelps couldn't have been clearer, he was at a promotional event in front of a starstruck crowd in New Delhi when he said: "Don't ask me that question."
"In the sport of swimming, when you miss one day, it takes two days to get back. For me when I spent six years straight not missing a single day, I was getting so much more benefit out of that than other athletes who were training for six days."
"If you take Sunday off, you aren't back to where you were until Tuesday. I was training so much. Now when I get in, I don't have that feel of the water that I had before. I've lost it. So, no comeback, you guys."
And still, the speculation doesn't stop, one British tabloid published an article on May 22 2019 with the headline screaming:
"Olympic superstar Michael Phelps has ‘itch’ to make shock return to the pool despite ‘happy’ retirement."
But it's hardly any surprise that so many want to see the USA's Olympic great back in the water.
Remember how much fun it was last time?
Michael Phelps leads team USA as flag bearer
Michael Phelps leads team USA as flag bearerFlag bearers Michael Phelps and Ibtihaj Muhammad lead the U.S. Olympic team during the parade of nations in the Rio 2016 opening ceremony.
It doesn't help when your fellow athletes try and pour fuel on the fire either, we're looking at you Chad Le Clos.
For many the greatest Olympian ever, Phelps holds the Olympic record for most medals (28), most gold medals (23), most individual medals (16) and most individual gold medals (13).
At the the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps won eight Olympic gold medals in all eight events that he participated in. Then there were the four golds at the London 2012 games, and the Rio 2016 comeback where he won five out of six gold medals, Singapore's Joseph Schooling preventing him of another clean sweep.
Michael Phelps: The London 2012 medal-winning races
Michael Phelps: The London 2012 medal-winning racesUSA swimming superstar Michael Phelps added more Olympic medals to his impressive haul in the pool at London 2012. Remember every medal-winning race.
Michael Phelps: The Rio 2016 medal-winning races
Michael Phelps: The Rio 2016 medal-winning racesRelive every medal win from Michael Phelps on his final Olympic Games outing at Rio 2016.
Michael Phelps: Wife, kids, happiness
But a married, retired and happy Phelps has moved on from the sub-aquatic life.
“In the sporting world, I was able to achieve everything I wanted to. Now, I am continuing talking about the importance of healthy and active lifestyles, mental health and water safety. It is something close to me and makes me excited to get out of bed every day,” he said while in Asia in April.
It must be hard for a 28-time Olympic medal-winning athlete to leave something behind that brought so much excitement and adrenaline, but Phelps has dipped into a different phase of his life.
The 'Flying Fish' is now a husband and a father and has a lot more time to spend with his wife Nicole Johnson, who he married in June 2016, and his two sons Boomer Robert Phelps and Beckett Richard Phelps.
He even gets to eat cake now.
But while dad happens to be a swim superhero, Phelps isn't going to force his sons to take the same lane he did.
Michael Phelps' Mental Health problems
But things aren't always rosy in life.
Even someone as mega-successful as Michael Phelps has his dark days.
The 'Baltimore Bullet' openly admits that he struggled - and sometimes still struggles - with depression and anxiety, to the point where he even contemplated suicide after the 2012 Olympics.
"I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I'm not in a good mental state," he told the Associated Press in summer 2018.
“I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”
Now he campaigns for awareness on mental health issues and works through his Michael Phelps Foundation for this and other causes such as levelling playing field for kids in swimming through grants and funding.
All-time most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps on mental resilience
All-time most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps on mental resilienceThe 23-time Olympic champion, Michael Phelps, opened up to the Olympic Channel Podcast about his struggles with mental health. “Being able to be open, to be honest (and) being your authentic self… that’s kind of the equation for success.”Phelps was third place in what was billed as the ‘Race of the Century’.The man who beat him to second place was three-time Olympic champ Pieter van den Hoogenband.Ian Thorpe, Michael Phelps, Grant Hackett and Klete Keller were all in the race – and all have suffered from mental problems at some point. Pieter didn’t. And, once his time in competitively swimming ended, he was still ok. “When your career is over, your life is not over. And you are not a medal.”
Phelps' focus on the next generation
While raising two sons he also coaches and mentors the next generation of swim stars.
He had this to say for any young athletes with a dream:
“Never give up on something you truly wanted. If your dream is true, you can do everything to make it a reality. My journey was not always easy… was not always fun. But it was something I truly wanted and there was no one who could stop me from achieving my goals.”
“If there is a kid dreaming of 50 Olympic medals, if there is someone dreaming of the stars, they can achieve that”
- Michael Phelps
James Maslow’s favourite: Michael Phelps swims through the history books