Michael Phelps is considered the greatest Olympic athlete of all time, and Sports Illustrated’s latest issue shows why.
Phelps appeared on his 12th cover for the magazine wearing all 23 Olympic gold medals for the first time (he left the five non-gold medals at home, it seems).
The most decorated Olympic athlete in history sat down with the magazine to discuss his decision to retire, which he announced in August during the 2016 Games in Rio. He won six more medals there in what he says was his final Olympics appearance ― five gold and one silver.
Speaking of his final individual race, Phelps told Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden how he knew it was time for a change.
”I’m coming into my last four or five strokes, and I remember thinking, Whatever happens, this is how it’s supposed to end,” Phelps said. “Maybe I’m going 6-for-6 and that’s perfect, or maybe Joe [Schooling] is going to hang on and I’m O.K. with that. That’s when I knew I was ready to retire. Any other time, I would have been livid about finishing second.”
Phelps said he was retiring in 2012 but decided to come back in 2016. Head over to Sports Illustrated to read the story in its entirety, and check out more photos from the cover shoot below.