White pants, colorful shirt, long beard hidden behind a red mask, Michael Phelps, 36, arrived all smiles in front of a handful of international journalists in the pavilion of Omega, one of his main sponsors.
For the first time in his life, the legend of the Games (28 medals including 23 gold between 2004 and 2016), retired since the Rio Olympics, does not need to be shaved and sharpened (even if he keeps the line) to immerse yourself in the Olympic bath.
And can't wait to enjoy the show ...
How does it feel to be at the Olympics without being an athlete?
I was walking the site this morning and it's so weird.
The amount of emotion I was feeling was almost overwhelming.
But it was really cool, awesome, to be back in that environment.
Feel all the excitement that reigns in these places.
Do I miss the competition?
Yes of course.
This is my favorite thing about my sport.
I love running.
But I'm also happy to have moved on to another chapter in my life.
These Olympics are special ...
It's still extra to have more Games!
I was really worried that they would be canceled.
I know how much work it takes to prepare for the Games and what the athletes have gone through to have the opportunity to be here.
I was able to realize how much we no longer care about what is happening in the world at this precise moment.
There is no other experience like this.
And it's fabulous to see how much people have achieved, all the extra protocols that had to be put in place to allow athletes to come and accomplish their dreams and goals.
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Are we not missing a few stars in this edition and in general?
I don't agree with that.
There are so many amazing athletes.
Each of them is a hero, each of them is a champion.
It's just a matter of time to see the emerging stars emerge who are going to compete here.
And there is always a young child somewhere who is not afraid to dream as big as he can and who will not let anything stand in the way of his ambitions.
It won't happen like that overnight but I'm sure we'll see some amazing athletes in Tokyo and move forward.
"I can't wait to see what Caeleb Dressel will do"
What does Caeleb Dressel inspire you, who is aiming for six titles in Tokyo?
You look at him, he does such extraordinary things underwater, his start, his turns, his flows… He trains his reaction time every day and it's crazy to be able to swim the 100 m and the 50 m as well.
I can't wait to see what he does.
It's going to be a week full of challenges for him.
But he's objectively the most talented swimmer we have on this planet and he does awesome stuff.
Mentally, are these Games the most difficult in history for an athlete?
As soon as the Games were postponed (Editor's note: in the spring of 2020), it was the thing that worried me the most.
How the athletes were going to mentally deal with having an extra year to prepare.
I saw during the Olympic swimming qualifications that there were positives and negatives.
Positive, because we have all these young people who joined the collective and who could not have been part of the team last year.
On the other side, there are the veterans who couldn't live up to it, like Nathan Adrian or Ryan Lochte.
They hurt them.
Have you even had to face a lot of mental challenges ...
We are all obligated, each in our own way, to confront our mental health.
To perform at our best, we need to consider both our physical condition and our mental well-being at the same time.
If we don't, then we risk having problems with depression or anxiety.
I went through hundreds of struggles, thousands of struggles
(Editor's note: especially addiction to alcohol or marijuana)
, and I know that these struggles will continue, it is not something that will disappear, it is they who make me who I am.
So you have to keep talking about it and be yourself.
Among the young hopefuls in swimming is Léon Marchand, who will train next year with our former mentor Bob Bowman.
What do you know about him?
(Editor's note: Xavier Marchand)
swam before me a few years ago… I saw him very good in his 400m medley heats
(Editor's note: the Frenchman then finished 6th in the final)
. For his first Olympic experience, I'm sure he learned a lot. You know when all those lights come on it's scary, it can be inhibiting. Seeing him train with Bob the next few years, it's going to be great to reveal the talent he has. He has already improved so much in recent months, especially last year. It's going to be fun because he has a crazy talent. We will see him return to his country
(Editor's note: in Paris 2024)
with a few small changes. I am always jealous of athletes who can compete in their home country. It's something I've always dreamed of. I dare not imagine what it will give ...