After listening to the national anthem a total of 14 times in his Olympic career, Michael Phelps has finally decided he’s heard enough.
At 27 years of age, Phelps has already said that the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be his last.
He’s been the golden boy of swimming for over a decade, making his Olympic debut in Sydney and finishing fifth in the 200-meter butterfly before he could even drive.
Twelve years and 39 world record swims later, Phelps is seven events away from hanging up the cap and speedo for good.
After a somewhat disappointing 2011 World Championship in Shanghai, he revamped his training routine with coach Bob Bowman and now feels hopeful to end his career with 21 gold medals.
Phelps had a good showing at the Olympic Trials, qualifying for eight events. He later dropped the 200-meter freestyle from his schedule, which includes four individual events and three relays, allowing Ricky Berens a chance to compete for the United States.
Many are griping over the fact that the Baltimore native will not be attempting to repeat his performance from the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The reason for the last-second scratch was the potential for an overly busy schedule; it leaves rival Ryan Lochte as the favorite to win gold.
Besides the potential fatigue associated with competing for eight gold medals once more, the feat may not once again be attainable purely based on fate.
Though Phelps’s accomplishments in 2008 cannot be discounted by anyone in the right mind, there was more than one occasion in which he was more than fortunate.
First, there was the 4X100-meter freestyle relay in which Jason Lezak made up a full body length on France’s anchor in just fifty meters to bail Phelps out early on.
Then, there was the 100 meter butterfly final in which he waited too long to make a move on Serbia’s Milorad Cavic but was fortunate enough to take a half stroke as he approached the last wall to out-touch his aquatic enemy by one one-hundredth of a second.
Saying Phelps can’t once again win eight gold medals is just as foolish of a statement as, “LeBron will never win a championship,” was a month ago.
Every time he’s hit a roadblock in the past, from a damaging candid bong photo in 2009 to a lackluster World Championships performance last year, Phelps has responded with explosive swims.
The difference this time is that he has absolutely nothing to prove.
Sure, Phelps will never be as charismatic as Usain Bolt or the “Redeem Team” but he managed to prove to all of us that he could surpass Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals.
For that, he deserves to take one event off, sit down with a five-dollar foot-long and enjoy these Olympics.