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Rejuvenated Phelps giving his all in final Games bid

The American swimmer, who owns a record 18 Olympic gold medals, retired after winning four golds and two silver medals at the 2012 London Games

Published: Updated:

Michael Phelps has emerged from one of the darkest periods of his life as a happy man and immersed himself in a career revival, which is bad news for anyone looking to spoil his bid for a glorious Olympic farewell.

The American swimmer, who owns a record 18 Olympic gold medals, retired after winning four golds and two silver medals at the 2012 London Games.

Yet deep down, Phelps knew he did not give his best in 2012 and after hitting a personal low in 2014, rededicated himself, embracing life and working harder than ever in hopes of leaving the sport after the Rio Olympics on a high note at the ripe age of 31.

“I’m happy with who I am, I’m happy where I am. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I feel like a kid again,” Phelps told Reuters at the Under Armour complex in Baltimore where he was promoting a TV commercial for the apparel maker.

“I feel more relaxed in my own skin than I’ve ever been, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. It’s the best spot I’ve ever been in my life.”

His impending marriage to former Miss California Nicole Johnson and eagerly awaited arrival of their baby boy have enriched the man, who despite all his triumphs had been sorely troubled in the past.

“I look back to 2012 and how I prepared for that and I can tell you it was a joke. It was,” said Phelps. “I had no passion and wasn’t really too into it. I had no motivation. I think I needed time away from everything - from the sport, from my family, my friends, from every single part of my life.”

Phelps hit bottom in late 2014 with his second arrest on a drunken driving charge that resulted in a six-month ban by USA Swimming and 45 days in alcohol rehabilitation.

Competitive form

The gold medalist has been building back to competitive form ahead of June’s U.S. championships in Omaha.

“I never wanted to look back 20 years down the road and say ‘what if I did this differently, what if I did that differently,’” said Phelps, who has a record 22 Olympic medals.

“This is me giving 100 percent. I don’t really know besides 2000 the last time that I gave a hundred, hundred percent. I decided everything I do is going to be (aimed) to retire how I want.”

Looking superbly fit, Phelps gave a 20-minute glimpse of his rigorous out-of-pool workout at the sprawling Under Armour gym.

He squatted 315 pounds, exercised his core using a pulley, a rolling wheel and a ball, before finishing on the monkey bars, stopping at each rung to do pull-ups until he began tearing skin off his hands.

Phelps refused to specify his “lofty goals” for Rio, but believes his story is headed for a happy ending.

“My whole life has been a dream come true,” said Phelps. “It’s time to put some icing on the cake this summer.”