Michael Phelps opens up about overcoming suicidal thoughts and unresolved childhood conflicts that plagued him after his history-making eight-gold medal victory at the 2008 Olympics. He speaks with notable candor as he embarks upon his fifth and final Olympics in Rio.

Michael Phelps

Photo: Michael Phelps
Credit: PR Photos

The 18-time Olympic gold medalist has become a living legend, and while his athletic achievements have been duly praised. He is the most decorated Olympian of all time. And over the years, at the same time, his private travails have also played out in public, including a DUI arrest and conviction that led to a stint in rehab. The infamous bong photo of 2009– for which USA Swimming suspended him for three months — was just the start of what would become his unraveling.

In an interview with ESPN The Magazine he says that he hit his lowest point after the 2012 London Olympics. He told the publication, “I didn’t give a sh-t.” He added, “I had to go another four years. There was no other option…I thought I could fake it. Just do a little bit and fake my way through it. And I almost did.”

He also reflected upon just how intense his despair was that it even led to thoughts of suicide. He said, “I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.”

Phelps opened up about his estranged father, Fred Phelps who left his mother, Barbara Phelps, when he was just nine years old. That abandonment had lingering effects upon him. In the years that followed, his longtime coach Bob Bowman, whom he met when he was just 11 years old, had become a father figure.

Bowman himself is also interviewed and reflects upon his years of coaching Phelps in Baltimore and later at the University of Michigan and the strife and contentiousness that was always a part of that relationship. He said, “”Maybe it was wrong to push him so hard to do these things.” He goes on to say, “But I don’t think so. He looks back on that stuff with pride. But I do feel like along the way, we probably didn’t spend enough attention to the other sides of him.”

You can see the full article here as Michael Phelps speaks of the troubles of his past and his hopes for Rio and beyond.

While Phelps has given interviews previously and opened up about his struggles — including on the ‘Today Show’ where he spoke about rehab and how it helped him to transform — this in-depth article puts it all in context. The viewing public has mostly seen the Olympic triumphs on the one hand, and the tabloid headlines on the other.