For the second straight Olympics, Michael Phelps plans to announce his retirement from Olympic swimming. Although he has one more race on his Rio docket — the 4×100-meter medley relay set for Saturday night — Phelps reiterated these Olympics are his last competition.
He didn’t completely slam the door on making another comeback after this retirement, but the most decorated Olympian in history reiterated he’s not going to be swimming at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“I’m not competing in four years,” the 31-year-old Phelps said after his second-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly finals. “I’ll say this just in case of a comeback … my potential last Olympics. Just so you guys don’t beat me to death if I come back. No, I’m not. But I’ll just say that.”
Phelps was responding to media after a question quoting longtime rival and teammate Ryan Lochte doubting Phelps’ latest retirement intentions. He retired after the London Games as well but came back to the sport in 2014. That comeback changed the course of the Rio Olympics, with Phelps adding four more gold medals and one silver to his career haul.
“He said he’s going to retire after 2012, and I was the only one that said he’d come back,” Lochte said about Phelps. “And I think he’s coming back again. He loves that excitement, loves that challenge on the block against seven swimmers. I think with a different purpose, he’s going to come back and push his limits. I’ll be back and I want him back because we push each other. USA needs this. He’s been the backbone.”
Added Phelps: “I’ll clarify: Ryan doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m not coming back in 2020. I saw that today and I thought, ‘Oh, thanks Ryan! Throwing me out there for another four years.'”
He began his Olympic career in Sydney in 2000 and began his medal-winning march four years later in Athens before peaking in Beijing, winning eight gold medals. He snared four golds and two silvers in London.