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Michael Phelps: 'I consider myself normal'

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Story highlights

  • Michael Phelps says he will retire after the London 2012 Olympic Games
  • The swimmer has 17 Olympic medals
  • Phelps: "If you want to be the best you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do"

"I consider myself normal," Michael Phelps told Piers Morgan. "I've spent 20 years in the pool. I consider that something that's normal."

In an interview on Monday's "Piers Morgan Tonight," the American swimmer who has amassed 17 Olympic medals talked about his goals for the 2012 Games, his heroes, mistakes he's made, his impending retirement and much more.

Phelps won six gold and two bronze medals at the Athens Games in 2004, and eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008. Last night, Phelps won his first ever silver as part of the 400-meter relay team. His medal collection leaves him a mere two medals away from becoming the winningest athlete in Olympic history.

In Saturday's 400-meter individual medley, Phelps came in fourth place. Fellow USA teammate Ryan Lochte won the gold. It was the first time Phelps failed to win a medal in an Olympic event since 2000. Phelps, 27, is competing in his fourth and final Olympics before retirement.

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Phelps, who grew up in a suburb of Baltimore, began swimming at age 7.

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Phelps at one point trained every day for five years. He spent three to six hours in the pool each day and exercised on dry land four to five days a week.

Morgan pointed out that the number of Olympians who cite Phelps as an inspiration makes the swimmer an almost godlike figure, but Phelps said that his athletic role model has always been Michael Jordan.

"On and off the court, the guy made basketball what it is," Phelps told Morgan.

Phelps has yet to meet the basketball Hall of Famer and six-time NBA champion, who also is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. But the two sports stars share a similar trait: Both men had a dream, reached for it and achieved it despite the sacrifices they made.

"I think one of the coolest things that I loved about him was it didn't matter what he had going on off the court or if he was sick or this, that," said Phelps. "He never used an excuse. He came out every single night on the court and did what he had to do to get his job done. That's what champions do. It doesn't matter what else is going on when you walk in to your arena, whatever you excel at, you're there to take care of the job that you have to do."

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Morgan asked Phelps to recall the fallout from the 2009 incident in which a photograph of the swimmer allegedly smoking pot from a bong at a party surfaced.

"I'll make a million mistakes in my life but as long as I never make the same mistake again, then I've been able to learn and grow," said Phelps. He also said that the incident made him realize who his real friends were.

With retirement clear on the horizon, Phelps told Morgan that he'd most like to be remembered for "doing something that nobody else had ever done before, changing the sport of swimming. That's what I hope to walk out of this sport with."

One aspect of retirement that Phelps looks forward to is visiting oceans or resorts and not getting in the water.

"I don't want to get in the water," said Phelps. "I spent so much time in the water; I'm like 'No I'll sit here on the beach. ... I don't want to get in the water and play."

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