Michael Phelps conquered the 2008 Beijing Olympics, walking away with eight gold medals for swimming. But following his epic turn at the summer events, Michael hit a rough patch and sort of left his athletic career hanging in the balance.
That's until he realized he had another chance to break all kinds of records at the 2012 London Olympics, telling Details magazine, "I wanted to be the best. I still do."
"It was weird going from the highest of the high, the biggest point of your life — winning eight gold medals — and then saying, 'Alright, where do I go from here?' I wasn't motivated. I did nothing, literally nothing, for a long time. I gained 25 pounds," Michael reveals in the Olympic issue of Details, which he covers.
"A friend of mine and I were playing football on the beach in Miami, and somebody got a picture of us and put it all over the place. And he's like, 'Bro, you gotta start working out, man. You are fat.' So I started going through the motions again," he adds. " I would go back for a week or two and then stop. I'd show up for dry-land practice and then just sneak out the back door so nobody saw me. I was watching Rocky II the other day — the one where he's fighting Apollo for the second time and he's just going through the motions. It reminded me of how I was."
One major bump in the road came when Michael was photographed smoking marijuana at a party, something he says was a huge mistake.
"It was a learning experience," Michael says. "I'm the kind of person who has to go through the learning experiences myself. Somebody could tell me, 'If you eat this much you'll be fat,' and I'd be like, 'Yeah, okay, let me try it.' Growing up, my mom taught us to make our own decisions, but also that you have to pay for the consequences of those decisions. I'm thankful for that. I'll be the first to say I've made thousands of mistakes, but I've never made the same mistake twice."
As of now, Michael just landed a spot in seven swimming events at the Olympics, dropping out of the 200-meter freestyle to focus on the relays. And now that his motivation is back, the Olympian is seeing nothing but gold.
"I realized that I probably hadn't reached my full potential. There was still more in the tank," he explains. "As I come to closure on my career, am I going to look back in 20 years and say, 'What if?' That's something I don't want. This is it. I've always said I wouldn't swim past 30. I don't want to be that guy who's hanging on, but I want to reach my max potential. I don't care how much pain I have to go through or the sacrifices I have to make. I'll get it."