BARCELONA, Spain – When Michael Phelps walked away from swimming after the London Olympics last year, he was adamant about one thing: His career was over.
These days, it sounds as if he is not so sure.
While saying he has never been happier with his life — and certainly doesn’t miss the grind of what it took to become the winningest athlete in Olympic history — Phelps left the door open to change his mind before the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Phelps, 28, said Monday. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
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Phelps has 22 Olympic medals, 18 gold.
In Barcelona for the world championships, Phelps spoke to The Associated Press and other international media organizations in a series of one-on-one interviews set up by his sponsor, Speedo. When asked by the AP, yes or no, whether he will compete at the next Olympics, Phelps coyly said he hasn’t planned that far ahead in his life.
That is a striking change from his comments before and immediately after the London Games, when he insisted his retirement was set in stone and it had always been his goal to quit swimming before he turned 30.
Phelps will be 31 at the time of the opening ceremony for the Rio Games.
“I don’t know. We’re in 2013,” he said, before adding, “There’s nothing in the works right now.”
There seemingly is plenty of time for a comeback. Phelps would likely want to begin training before the end of the year, which would allow him to get into peak condition leading up to the 2015 world championships.
Phelps isn’t training at the moment. He jammed the small toe of his right foot on the edge of a sofa while at home in Baltimore, and aggravated the injury when he played in a golf tournament in Nevada. Phelps is wearing a boot cast on his foot while in Barcelona to cope with a stress fracture.
Phelps is scheduled to return to the United States on Tuesday. He has been accompanied by his new girlfriend, Golf Channel reporter Win McMurry.
Of his future, Phelps said, “I have no plans to do anything. I love what I’m doing now. I’m able to travel so much, play golf. I’m on my schedule. I’ve never been able to have that. I’ve never been able to do really whatever I want to do. I go wherever I want to go. I see whatever I want to see. It’s nice waking up at 10, 11, 12 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m pretty lazy besides playing golf. I don’t do much.”
• Ruta Meilutyte, a 16-year-old from Lithuania, set the first world record of the meet.
Meilutyte’s time in the semifinals of the 100-meter breaststroke was 1 minute, 4.35 seconds, surpassing the mark of 1:04.45 set by American Jessica Hardy in 2009.