He had to pee on command six times (how fast could he go?), had to be blood-tested once, had blood taken from his ear by the team trainer for lactic-acid testing 35 times, had the national anthem played in his honor over and over again--Don't you guys know anything else? He was never in bed before midnight and never woke up later than 7:45.
"One morning," he said, "I told Lenny [Olympic Village roommate Lenny Krayzelburg], 'I'm tired, dude. I mean, I can't get out of this bed.' He's like, 'Only one more, dude.' It was just so emotionally exhausting. You've got to get yourself so up, and when it's over, it's so hard to get the emotions back again."
But Athens forever will be Phelps's, for his drive and for his decency.
The kid gave away his spot in his final race, the 4�100 medley relay, to Ian Crocker, the teammate whose sore-throat, cement-Speedo leg in the 4�100 freestyle relay at the start of the week cost Phelps his chance at seven golds and a $1 million bonus from Speedo. "I wanted him to show the world what he was really made of," Phelps said. Wait a minute. A pro athlete giving up a worldwide prime-time moment to a lesser swimmer out of simple kindness? Uh, driver, what planet are we on?
"All he said was, 'Thanks,'" Phelps recalled, "but you could see in his eyes what it meant to him."
No wonder Phlipper Phelps was the focus of 10 press conferences. Toward the end his answers all started sounding like warmed-up Spackle. He said, "a dream come true," about 1,006 times and declared even more often, "I'm having a blast"--maybe not the best phrase to use in terrorist-wary Athens.
When asked if he will try different events in Beijing in 2008, he said, "No, I don't think so." Wouldn't it have been great if he'd said, "Absolutely. I'm going for the pommel horse"?
And is there anybody he'd like to meet now that he can meet anybody? "Well," he said, grinning like a schoolboy, " Lindsay Lohan would be nice."
Hard to believe, all this from a kid with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, a kid whose mother was once told by a teacher, "Debbie, he will never be able to focus on a thing in his life."
"I'm just different in the water," Phelps says. "I just feel at home in it. I work with autistic kids a little, and there's this one kid, once he gets in the water, he's relaxed. He gets happy. That's how I am."