Phelps won’t let age hinder his goal to medal at Rio Games

  • Wednesday, March 9, 2016 1:06am
  • News

BALTIMORE — Michael Phelps adheres to a strict diet, is adamant about getting a good night’s sleep and spends more time at the gym than ever before.

That’s what happens when you turn 30 and still feel the need to make a splash at the Olympics.

Phelps has won a record 18 gold medals, and 22 medals overall, in three Olympics. He long ago made good on his quest to bring swimming into the national limelight, and now he’s in the midst of one final push that will test his mettle and conditioning.

Phelps intends to leave nothing to chance in his preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“I’m on top of this more than I ever have before because I’m 30 now,” Phelps said Tuesday. “My body’s not the same it was five years ago, 10 years ago. When I decided to come back, I knew I was going to do it the right way and be able to retire the way I want to retire.”

That will require far more effort than he put forth in 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

“I think this is me giving 100 percent. It’s really weird to say this, but I don’t know besides 2000 the last time I gave 100 percent — the max,” Phelps said. “I broke my wrist six months before the Olympic trials in ‘08. In 2012, the preparation wasn’t the best that it could have been, and I take full blame for that. So there’s always been something.”

Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2004 and 2014. He has sworn off alcohol at least until after the Olympics, and those massive breakfasts he once enjoyed are apparently also a thing of the past.

“I am eating just to maintain a weight, trying to stay between 200 and 205 pounds. I think that’s kind of my ideal fighting weight,” he said. “Every now and then I take what I want, but I don’t go too overboard on sweets or inappropriate fuel.”

The result?

“I’m more relaxed in my own skin than I’ve ever been. I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” Phelps said.

His trainer, Keenan Robinson, believes Phelps is doing exactly what’s needed for him to be successful in Rio.

“What he’s done this past year and a half is remarkable,” Robinson said. “It’s not like he just shows up, falls in the water and medals fall out of the sky. From my standpoint, he’s on track, he’s on pace. Our focus going in was to make sure no stone was unturned.”

Phelps said he’s far more focused on success this time around than in London four years ago.

“At that point, it was clear I wasn’t really fully engaged in what I was doing. I wasn’t preparing myself for the goals that I have,” he said. “The goals I have this summer are very lofty. Don’t ask what they are because I won’t tell you. But I know to be able to achieve those goals I have to be 100 percent. That’s what gets me out of bed.”

Although Phelps has been making some sacrifices since he was a teenager, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Did I miss some Friday nights hanging out with friends in high school? Yeah, but I’ve also had the chance to become the most decorated Olympian of all time,” Phelps said. “I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to do, and this year is something I’m looking forward to and very excited about.”

Phelps and his fiancé, Nicole Johnson, live in Arizona. Phelps took a break from the pool to return to his native Baltimore on Tuesday to help Under Armour launch a new ad campaign. The centerpiece of the campaign is a 90-second spot that depicts Phelps’ exhaustive training regimen.

“It really is who I am and what I do,” Phelps said.

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