Michael Phelps has had his fair share of success in the pool. Eighteen Olympic gold medals. Twenty-two overall. Thirty-nine world records. And having already committed to retiring, presumably for good this time, following this summer’s Rio Olympics, it appears he is already thinking about what he will do beyond the pool — or at least out of it.
Phelps currently resides in Tempe, Ariz., after following his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, from his near-lifetime training grounds at North Baltimore Aquatic Club to Arizona State University, where Bowman took over as head coach earlier this year. And according to the Arizona Republic, Phelps has told his coach that he will be sticking around after the Olympics to be a volunteer assistant coach for the Sun Devils during the 2016-17 season.
“I wanted nothing to do with the water” after London, Phelps said. “I wanted to be as far away from it as I could. Now, being around it more than I have in a long time, I don’t think I’ll be able to go far from the sport because it is a part of me.”
Bowman’s decision to leave Baltimore, and Phelps’s subsequent move, has already provided a recruiting boon for Arizona State, and the opportunity to be coached by the sport’s “greatest of all time” isn’t likely to stymie that upward trend. Plus, according to Phelps, Tempe is a pretty great place to live regardless.
“For me, somebody who swam inside for 20 years, being able to see a clear blue sky and sun 95 percent of the time, it’s just a good change,” Phelps said. “Our attitude towards workout is a lot better now than what it was in the past. I’d be the first one to say this is one of the best places I’ve ever lived.”
It is only the third place Phelps has trained long-term in 15-plus years as a professional athlete. He grew up and has trained most of his life in Baltimore, and also had a four-year stint at the University of Michigan, where Bowman served as the program’s head coach from 2005-08. But in the hierarchy of his recent life changes — he got engaged in February and announced in November he and fiancee Nicole Johnson are expecting a baby — his move west was likely among the least of them. And plus, besides Bobman, he’s had a close friend along the way to help ease the transition.
Allison Schmitt, a fellow Olympic swimmer, also moved to Tempe to train at the same time as Phelps and reportedly will remain at ASU, as well. Schmitt, a Georgia alumnus, said she will be pursuing a master’s degree in psychology. The six-time Olympic medalist revealed to the Baltimore Sun in July that she has battled depression since the London Olympics in 2012, and she has iterated often that she wants to help others who have had similar struggles as her.
She also seems happy to stay in sunny Tempe, where she followed Bowman for the second time in her career after a similar move, when Bowman left Michigan to return to Baltimore.
“I love change, and I’ve really adapted well to it. I’m just so happy to be here,” Schmitt said.