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Phelps Wants to Relax, Then Stop Relaxing

(By Gary Hershorn - Reuters)

Michael Phelps was sitting next to his coach, Bob Bowman, talking about this slogan they use in training: "putting money in the bank." Bowman busts out the phrase when another set of unpleasant drills looms, when Phelps would rather, as he so often says, go back to bed.

"Bob's always saying, 'Well this is putting money in the bank, and at the end of the year you're going to withdraw everything, and make a big withdrawal,' " Phelps said at his closing press conference a few minutes ago, in front of a packed auditorium in the media center. "So I guess I put a lot of money in the bank over the last four years. And we withdrew pretty much every penny in the bank, so it's sort of time to start--after Bob and I both have a little break--it'll be time to start redepositing."

Olympic athletes aren't any different from pro basketball players or pro football players; there are only so many words to describe what they do, and many of them sound familiar. "Anybody can do anything they set their mind to," Phelps said just now, as he's said before. Whether or not that's true, I'm not sure, but most people I know usually opt for going back to bed, in a metaphorical sense at least. (i.e. checking fantasy football draft lists obsessively instead of trying to figure out what else can be said about judo.)

But the wacky thing is that where normal people would be counting their endorsement dollars and planning to retire to some golf course, Phelps is already setting his mind to future swimming meets.

He said he'll try to make the next U.S. team and go to the world championships in Italy; "my mom's told me that I better make the team because she wants to go to Rome," he said. A reporter from Al-Jazeera asked him what in the world he could use for inspiration now that he's flown past Mark Spitz; "there are some things that I still want to do," he said.

"I want to raise the bar in the sport of swimming more," he continued. "You know, it's come a long way. I've heard about 70,000 people at Ravens Stadium staying after the preseason game to watch the relay on the big screen, to the 100 fly being on the Jumbotron at the Cincinnati Reds game. You know, four years ago, there's no way that would ever happen. I think the sport of swimming has come a long way so far and I think it can go even farther, and that's where I hope to take it, even farther."

The WaPo staffers here are all talking about going home and crawling into bed and never going to the Olympics again, and this dude's talking about redepositing workout checks in the bank and raising bars and qualifying for world championship teams? He also said that between races this week, he and his teammates played Risk. You know, the classic "game of world domination." I'm sure he took it to Kamchatka and Irkutsk.

At least there were a few nods toward doing what the normals would do: sitting in front of the TV eating donuts and watching The Price is Right.

"I just want to sort of lay in my own bed for five minutes," he said at one point. "At least. And just relax."

His opening statement, though, was the part I'll remember. Journalists have been struggling to figure out what to say about one guy who's so much better than everyone else, for whom everything goes perfectly, and Phelps was also flailing about, trying to figure out what to say.

"I guess I'm supposed to tell more, but I'm not really sure what to say," he said. "Um. Uh. It was fun?....You know, every moment that I've had so far in and out of the pool will be with me forever. It's been one of the greatest weeks of my life if not the greatest....It's just been absolutely incredible. Um. Yeah. I'm happy."

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 17, 2008; 3:12 AM ET
Categories:  Olympics  
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