Carlisle has spent the past decade building endorsement contracts with an eye on this moment: the first day after he was done as a competitor and turned into an old-timer.
“From my view, I think he’s one of the handful of truly global sports icons,” Carlisle said. “In Beijing, he solidified his recognizability throughout the world. He solidified his relevance throughout the world, just with the uniqueness of what he did. But these Games, he solidified his legacy.”
So expect more commercials, more ads, more exposure, even as he transitions to a non-competitive lifestyle. Phelps said Sunday he intends to improve his golf game. He will not, he said, treat his body as he did following the Beijing Games, when he gained 25 pounds, a release after a focus so intense it became stifling. That kind of thing led to the questions about how he would perform in London.
“There were just plenty of times where he maybe wasn’t at practice for a couple weeks,” his coach Bob Bowman said, “and I’d wonder if we were going to get this done.”
They got it done, and more. Now, the hard part: Phelps still has a competitive mind, is still a swimming junkie. Late Saturday night, after a party with family and friends, he settled into a London hotel. There, he sat down with Lenny Krayzelburg, a four-time gold medalist backstroker who was Olympic teammates with Phelps in 2000 and 2004. The chatter? Swimming, of course — different times in different races, world records and medals, disappointments and characters.
Maybe, less than 24 hours removed from the pool, Phelps couldn’t rightfully be expected to be cleansed of it. But the day after his career ended, there seemed to be no easy answer to what the next stage will bring.
“Who knows where this leads me?” Phelps said. “This is my first day of retirement, and the first day of the rest of my life.”