Michael Phelps On The #PhelpsFace Meme & What’s Next After The Rio Olympics

Michael Phelps is retiring from professional swimming after
an outstanding run at the Rio Olympics, he said on “Today.”

The Olympic superstar won five gold medals and one silver in
Rio and also became a part of one of the games’ most viral social media moments
when a face he made while waiting for a race was turned into a popular meme —

On Monday, the celebrated swimmer sat down with Billy Bush
for an Access Hollywood interview, and the Olympian explained what was behind
the look he was spotted making as Chad Le Clos warmed up in front of him ahead of the semifinals for the
200-meter butterfly.

WATCH: Michael Phelps: ‘I Didn’t Want To Live My Life Without’ Nicole

“I saw it and… obviously everybody has their own way of
getting ready for a race and maybe that was his,” Michael told Billy, who
asked about the South African swimmer, who was standing in front of Phelps when
the American made his now infamous expression.

“He was right in front of me and I was trying to like,
look around him to see the TV that was in there ’cause there was one TV in
there — I was trying to watch the heat before me, and then I just had music
going on in my head, I had some thoughts going on in my head, and spittin’
water a little bit all over the place, so I was in my own zone,” Phelps
told Billy. “I was not intentionally mean-mugging him or giving him a
dirty look.”

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Phelps’ game face spawned memes and even Twitter accounts.

“The memes were hilarious,” Michael said.

“Chad was great afterwards,” the swimmer added, as
Billy acknowledged the hug between the two competitors.

The two later shared the podium after the 100 meter
butterfly, when they earned a three-way tie for the silver medal with László Cseh of Hungary (Joseph Schooling
of Singapore took the gold).

PHOTOS: Michael Phelps & Ryan Lochte: Their Bromance Through The Years

“The 100 fly, I think, was really cool. Being on
the silver medal podium with someone who I’ve raced with for 12 years, with László and with Chad, who we’ve obviously had
kind of our back and forth over the last four years of just — I mean, I guess
there were a lot of comments that were flown around left and right and he’s
obviously a great competitor, a good racer and I wish him all the best,”
Phelps said.

Michael ends his Olympic career having won 23 gold medals,
three silver and two bronze. As for what’s next, he
told Billy his plans including continuing to build his MP brand (they sell swim
products), and continuing to teach children across the globe water safety and to swim.

He’s also looking forward to going on vacation with his fiancée, Nicole Johnson.

“Nicole and I want to travel a little bit and I know
there’s some places that she wants to go and see, and I want to go and see
and just love life. Time to do whatever we want to do,” he said.

But don’t expect retirement to mean he’ll be away from the
pool. His mother, Debbie, said the pool is her son’s cocoon.

“I can get in the water and be really, really upset and
I can get out of the water and I can be a happy, outgoing person again. I think
it’s just being able to be alone and in kind of an element that I’ve grown up
in and been so accustomed to that yeah, I guess it is kind of peaceful. So I
think that’s why I will still incorporate swimming in part of my weekly
routine, just because it’s calming and soothing for me,” he said. 

Jolie Lash

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