London 2012: Michael Phelps Is 'Sick of the Water,' or so He Says

Avi Wolfman-Arent@@awolfmancomethCorrespondent IIMay 16, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 12:  Michael Phelps competes in the men's 200m butterfly finals of the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix at Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 12, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Michael Phelps isn't all that fond of swimming these days and he doesn't care if you know it.

In fact, it seems like he wants you to know it.

In an article published Tuesday, he told ESPN columnist Rick Reilly:

I'm so sick of the water...Even when I go to the beach with my friends. They're like, "Why won't you get in?" And I'm like, "Do you have any IDEA how much of my life I've spent in the water?"

That disavowal of all things aquatic comes on the heels of a recent interview with 60 Minutes, in which he insinuated to Anderson Cooper that he would retire after the London Olympics.

The message that comes across in both pieces is clear: I'm so over swimming.

As a fan of the Olympics and of Phelps, that's hard to hear.

Phelps is unquestionably the most recognizable American Olympian of the past decade and he's on the verge of becoming the most decorated Olympian ever.

Perhaps it's asking too much, but it would be great for drama's sake to hear that he's focused, hungry and fully aware of the historical precipice upon which he teeters.

But he's not.

I suppose that's fair. No one should be a slave to his or her craft, even if the craft pays well.

But while I acknowledge Phelps' right to feel burnt out, I'm still left questioning the authenticity of it all.

Maybe it's the editing. Maybe all the stuff about how swimming has been so good to him hit the cutting room floor.

But if these pieces are an accurate reflection of Phelps' attitude, then it all comes across a bit forced.

It isn't surprising he feels this way at the tail end of a grueling comeback. You would have to be swimming-obsessed not to feel a bit overwhelmed at this juncture in the training arc.

But what about three years from now, when the camera bulbs stop popping and the reporters stop calling?

What about the day when he no longer remembers the dull pain of a suicide workout, but can still recall, in vivid detail, how great he once was?

What about when he wakes up and realizes he's 30 years old and has played all the golf one man can play?

What then?

By expressing his apathy in such clear terms—to two major media outlets, no less—I don't get the sense that Michael Phelps is trying to convince us of his true feelings.

I get the sense he's trying to convince himself.