SHANGHAI, July 23 — Michael Phelps has won 14 Olympic gold medals, 22 world championship titles and set numerous world records, yet the American still regards himself as just a regular guy.
“In my eyes, I consider myself a normal person,” the 26-year-old from Baltimore told reporters at a media conference stuffed full of reporters, television cameras and photographers.
“Yeah there are a lot more cameras pointing at me right now than most other people but this is my life. This is what I consider normal.
“I’m getting ready for a world championships and I live my life how I want to live it. If I want to walk down the street and get a bite to eat, I’ll do that.
“If I want to play 18 holes of golf, I will go and play 18 holes of golf.”
Phelps (picture) has had to endure a disappointing three years since he carved his name into the Olympic annals with a stunning eight-gold medal performance at Beijing.
He admitted he was not quite ready for a return to the strenuous training regime implemented by long-time coach Bob Bowman after the Olympics while he also suffered embarrassment when he was photographed inhaling from a pipe typically used for smoking marijuana.
In 2009, he was badly beaten by Germany’s Paul Biedermann at the Rome world championships in the 200 metres freestyle — one of the events he had won in Beijing a year earlier.
Phelps is entered in the 100 and 200 metres butterfly, 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley as well as possibly three relays in Shanghai and is to use the championships to gauge what programme he would swim next year in London before he retires.
“Everything is a stepping stone. The last two years haven’t been how we have wanted them to be but they were what they were.
“This year I feel like we have taken some steps forward and made some progress that is going to be big for the next year.
“Hopefully, I am ahead of schedule of where I want to be but this week is going to be a big test... to see what my body can handle for next year.
“Being able to handle the semis and finals schedule that I have here will tell us what to fix and gives us a year to prepare for Olympic trials and we will move on from there.” — Reuters