I can’t blame Phelps or other professional athletes when they decide to hang it up. If we’re going to blast guys like NFL quarterback Brett Favre for trying to hang on too long, then we can’t criticize athletes for going out on top, even when they theoretically have something left in the tank. An example from the triathlon world is Chrissie Wellington, who raced 13 Ironmans in her career and won all of them (including 4 World Championships), before announcing her retirement at age 35. After devoting everything to such a single focus, I can understand the desire to get involved with other things and do anything else. That said, since we always remember elite athletes at the peak of their powers, it’s strange to see them as anything less than that post-retirement.
It’s cool to me when former pro athletes either continue to be involved in their sport, or when they take on bold new challenges. Some sports lend themselves more to continuing to participate than others. I’ve heard Macca say that he’ll continue to do triathlons well after his pro days are over. On the other hand, I don’t see Favre playing in a local flag football league any time soon. As far as taking on new challenges goes, Phelps has been hitting the links of late. As a Steelers fan, I was stoked to hear that retired wide receiver Hines Ward is training for Ironman. Of course you knew his ride had to be black and gold, right?