There was no Medal for Phelp’s Greatest Victory
A few days ago he capped off another amazing Olympics, and became the winningest athlete in Olympic history. Michael Phelps, the iconic American swimmer, ended the Rio Olympics by winning his 28th Olympic medal — 23 of them have been gold. My every measure, he is the most successful and prolific Olympian ever. His list of accomplishments are staggering: 28 medals, 23 golds medals, and holds 3 world records.
To put it in perspective, no other Olympian has more than 9 gold medals. Phelps is not only the most prolific swimmer of all time, he is simply the greatest Olympian ever. He is the picture of success and at the top of his game. It seems unimaginable watching him this week, that two years ago at this time, he was contemplating suicide.
In a recent interview Phelps revealed that he nearly took his own life while facing very public embarrassment of his second DUI and facing the embarrassment in the media.
“I was a train wreck. I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self…CLICK TO TWEET
Phelps was facing the biggest challenge of his life. Facing the very public embarrassment of a second DUI, Phelps fell even deeper. He isolated himself, stopped eating and spiralled into a haze of drugs and alcohol and contemplated ending it all.
Ray Lewis, a fellow Baltimorean provided the life-preserver he needed when he was drowning a drug and alcohol binge. Lewis gave Phelps a copy of Rick Warren’s “A Purpose Driven Life” that Phelps took with him to rehab.
That was two years ago but it might as well be a lifetime ago. This week we watched Phelps stand atop the Olympic podium several times, including becoming the only athlete to win the same event (the 200 IM) in four straight Olympics. But there was something more special about this year for Phelps. He was different. He was more laid back. He smiled more. He seemed to enjoy the experience.
Phelps taught a great lesson this week, and it had nothing to do with his performance in the pool. He won his greatest victory; the victory we all must win at some point in our lives; the victory over our own inner demons,
The road of life is never a straight one. No one has an easy ride. Even those who seem be living the proverbial dream, have their stuff. Everyone has obstacles to overcome and demons to face. Who would ever imagine that someone who had won more than a dozen gold medals could get to the point of contemplating suicide?
This is exactly why I write and speak about resilience. We all need it. No one gets to the best moments of their lives, let alone the top of the Olympic podium, without having to pass through dark moments.
When Phelps found himself in his darkest moment, he chose to face his demons, go to rehab, and re-discover his purpose. This week was merely a symbolic acknowledgment of the victory he has already won.