8 years ago, Michael Phelps embarked on an Olympic journey in Beijing that saw him win a record breaking 8 gold medals, with an astonishing 7 world records. The other race was probably the greatest race of his career, the 100m butterfly, where he got an Olympic record. This feat will likely never be repeated in future Olympic Games, and just underlined what an incredible athlete he has been. However, over the last 8 years, he has faced significant demons in his life, self inflicted and unfortunate circumstances. He had claimed that London 2012 would be his swan song, but he is back for a 5th Olympic Games and is looking to win multiple gold medals once again.

Like so often in his career, it looks like nothing will get in his way of achieving greatness for a 4th time.

His preparation is similar to pre 2008

After his retirement in 2012, Michael started to enjoy parts of life that he couldn’t do when racing. Going on holidays, playing golf and having fun with his friends were all things he enjoyed. But in 2014, after gaining 30 pounds, he felt like he wanted to get back in the pool again. This is a stark difference to when he was 11 years old, and his coach Bob Bowman forced him through training on his way to become a champion. That desire, coming from Phelps himself, showed its rewards at the Nationals last year. He produced world leading times in the butterfly and individual medley events to show he is back to form.

He also feels like he is preparing for races like he used to in the build up to 2008. One of his races in Beijing was completed when his goggles filled with water, essentially making him blind. He still achieved a world record, purely going by stroke count. That genius is likely to be on show in Rio in the upcoming week.

Mental triumphs pave the way for glory

In the lead up to London, like he has stated himself, Phelps was battling inner demons. Loss of interest in the sport he had graced since he was 15 years old, arguments with his coach and mental fatigue. These were all things he was facing at the time, which makes his 4 gold medals at London all the more remarkable.

However, his lowest point probably came in 2014, where he was arrested for a DUI offence. His mental state was so strained that he felt the need to go into rehab for 45 days. This was probably the turning point in his whole life, as he now seems to be a completely different person. Happiness, along with his baby boy, are all helping the American to focus on what he does best, swim fast. This surely makes him a great person, let alone a great athlete.

A balance of motivation and relaxation

He has already become the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a staggering 22 medals, 18 golds. He is no longer Swimming in the pursuit of records, he is the greatest swimmer the world has ever seen. All his competitive instincts are from him now, not from Bowman or anyone else.

This total responsibility of his swimming gives him a challenge that he has never faced in his career. Although this may be quite difficult for an athlete, he can be rest assured of his place in the history books. He can enjoy these Olympics as they will most definitely be the last time he swims competitively. Most people believe he will win again, and he usually doesn’t disappoint.

As he prepares to participate in his first Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Games, Michael Phelps may end these games as one the greatest sportsmen we have ever seen.