In 2016, after adding another five Olympic gold medals to his personal collection at the Rio Games, Michael Phelps paid a visit to TODAY and announced his retirement from competitive swimming, saying, “(I'm) done, done, done — and this time I mean it.”
He added that last part because, just four years before that, he’d made a similar declaration only to later change his mind. Maybe that’s why fans still hope that one day, the world’s most decorated Olympian will dive back into the competition.
It’s definitely why, on Monday morning, TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb asked the 36-year-old if he just might change his mind again. And while he didn’t say yes, he also didn’t say no.
“My wife said to Lester (Holt) in (2016), back in Rio, that if I did come back, it would be in L.A.,” he recalled, referring to the Los Angeles Olympics, set for 2028.
Before continuing, he looked straight at the camera and said, “I’m not coming back now! Don’t get any ideas.”
Then he said, “I don’t know,” before going on to reveal just what it might take to convince him.
“I’m completely happy,” the father of three said of his current status. “I get into the water from time to time for my own personal mental health. My kids love the water. ... If my boys, at some point, ask when I’m going to or why I’m not competing, we’ll see what the answer is then.”
It seems as though the answer depends on just how much sons Boomer, 5, Beckett, 3, and Maverick, 1, want to see dad in action, because the Olympic great then added, “Anything for my kids.”
The boys still have a few years before dad would need to start training, since it looks like his wife, Nicole, was on to something when she mentioned the 2028 Olympics last time.
“Obviously, Nicole spilled the beans in 2016,” Phelps said before immediately correcting himself with a laugh, “Not even beans! She made up that story.”
As for the current games in Tokyo, the 23-time gold medalist said it was “a little bizarre” not to be in the water, but that he’s “happy to be cheering on Team USA.”