Charlotte next for Phelps
By Paul Newberry
BALTIMORE ó Michael Phelps heard all the jokes, dealt with all the criticism, read all the tabloid reports about his supposed party-boy lifestyle.
Now, it’s time to get even, in the one place where he has the last word.
After resisting the urge to quit and serving a three-month suspension handed down by USA Swimming after an embarrassing picture showed him inhaling from a marijuana pipe, Phelps is preparing for his first competition since winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
When he competes at a meet in Charlotte next week, he’ll certainly have plenty of motivation. Phelps is still seething a bit about how an admittedly “stupid mistake” led to such a dramatic fallout ó and plenty of ridicule for an athlete who was celebrated after his record showing in China.
“When you find out things that have been said and done, for me it is sort of a factor,” Phelps said Tuesday in an exclusive interview coinciding with the end of his suspension. “When you say something about me, more than likely I’ll be able to overcome whatever you say. I know I’ll be more satisfied than you’ll ever be at the end.”
Phelps didn’t always feel so defiant. When he was at his lowest, unsure if he wanted to return to swimming, he sat down with a pen and a piece of paper.
“I wrote out the pros and cons of swimming,” he said, “and quitting.”
Swimming won out.
“What am I doing even thinking about quitting?” Phelps asked himself. “I’m 23 years old. I’m not retiring at 23. I have four more years to my career. I still have things I want to accomplish.”
In Charlotte, Phelps will swim five events: the 50-meter freestyle, 100 free, 200 free, 100 backstroke and 200 butterfly. Only two were on his record-breaking program in Beijing: the 200 free and 200 fly.