PITTSBURGH -- Swimming legend Michael Phelps has 14 Olympic gold medals, eight from the 2008 Beijing Games. He has broken 34 world records and counting. At 24, he has already seen the pros and cons of great success and becoming a celebrity athlete.
Q: You are a legend and you are still only in your 20s. What does that kind of success do to your self-image?
A: I have no idea. I've never thought about that. The reason I've done everything I've done is because I've wanted to do it. I've shown myself, and really anybody out there, that if you put your mind to something, you can do it. That is the only reason I am here. I wanted something, and I wasn't going to give up until I got it. And I got it. Now it's time to refocus and get back to something else that I want to put my mind to. That's how I've always approached things.
Q: That takes a certain kind of discipline. Was it something you developed or did it come naturally to you?
A: I don't know. I think it's a mix of both. If I have a passion about something then nothing will really stand in my way, except myself. I've always been like that from a very young age. I've always set goals for myself. Once I achieve those goals, I've gone on and moved to bigger goals. So I think over time it's just become an easier thing to do, because I am used to it.
Q: Did you do anything in particular to adjust to the media attention after Beijing? Were you prepared for it?
A: I think in some ways I was and in some ways I wasn't. I think in '04 I was able to go through it, but I was a deer in the headlights. In '08 I went through kind of the same things that I did after '04. I was more prepared for what was going to happen, (but) I didn't know what level it was going to be on. In a certain way, I was kind of prepared for the exposure that was going to happen for the sport.
Q: Was there any particular race during the 2008 Olympics that meant more?
A: I don't think so. I think every race was just incredible. You know the biggest thing was, I am able to look back at my time in Beijing and remember. There's not one particular memory that stands out, but it's the whole week that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. That will always be with me forever. I think that's something that is very special and meaningful.
Q: I'm curious, what did you tell PureSport (a new performance drink Phelps helped develop with other elite athletes) you were looking for?
A: One of the biggest things for me is I want to feel comfortable with the product. I want to feel like I like it and I want it to be a part of my regimen. So the biggest thing for me is that it is something that is good and tastes good and helps and is quick and easy. After my races, literally within five minutes, I have a recovery drink in my system. Also, it's not milk-based. When I have a bunch of events back to back to back, (it's important) my stomach is not getting upset. I am able to see results and I'm happy with it. It tastes good and I want to drink it. I am not forcing myself to do it. If you are really passionate about something, which I am about all of my sponsors, then that is even better.
Q: Everybody should get a least one do-over in life. Would yours be to have the tabloids ignore you?
A: Um, you know, I think everything happens for a reason in life, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. I think it's just always how you handle yourself and how you move from one thing to the next. Yeah, I'll be the person to admit I haven't had the most perfect life, crystal-clear life, but the things that I went through changed me as a person. They made me a better person, I think. That's all I can ask for.
I've had the best of the best moments, but I've had the worst of the worst. It is part of life. You can make mistakes, and if you never make the same mistake again then you're always going to be successful. That's one thing that somebody told me at the University of Michigan. You can learn from all your mistakes. I think everybody makes mistakes.
Yeah, my mistakes definitely weren't the best, and it's very hard to go through, but the support system that I have helped me. My friends, my family and, you know, my sponsors were there as well, supporting me through it. So I have a great support team and that's one of the good things about it.
For more of this interview, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09271/1001274-129.stm?cmpidnews.xml