Michael Phelps: Retirement Will Inspire Heroic Effort in Olympic Swan Song
Michael Phelps needs three medals in this year's Summer Olympics to become the all-time leading medal winner in Olympic history. He currently has 16 and will have seven chances to increase that number to 19 in London.
Not only is Phelps chasing history in London, but, according to CNN.com, this is his last chance to enter that class of his own. According to the report, this is Phelps' last Olympics. He will retire after London's festivities and we probably won't see him when 2016's games in Rio de Janeiro roll around.
Some athletes would allow that moment to become too big for them, but not Phelps. You don't win 16 medals on the grandest stage without having the heart necessary to stare momentous moments straight in the eye.
We've seen athletes back away from their retirement plans before, but we have to assume that Phelps is telling the truth. He's certainly accomplished enough. His legacy is already cemented in place and he could walk away tomorrow with iconic status, but that's not enough for an athlete of Phelps' stature.
Phelps will be motivated by the looming shackles of retirement. After London he will be merely a land-dwelling creature, at least in a competitive sense. That's not going to sit well, and he's going to take it out on his competition with one final display of excellence.
Adding to those emotions is the presence of 28-year-old American star Ryan Lochte. It's no secret anymore. He can compete with Phelps and Phelps doesn't want to go out when he's known as "second best," whether he really is or not.
Phelps isn't the same swimmer we saw in Beijing in 2008, but he's still a phenomenal talent. He's transcended his sport, and that's not something you can say for many Olympic athletes.
Retirement isn't easy for many athletes to stomach, especially legends. Phelps won't want to go out on anything but a high note. Expect that to provide all the motivation he needs in London's waters.
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