(Reuters) – American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time, said it was more important to him to save a life than win a gold medal as he detailed his struggles with depression.
FILE PHOTO: 2017 Kids Choice Sport Awards – Arrivals – Los Angeles, California, U.S., 13/07/2017 – Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon/File Photo
Phelps, winner of 23 gold medals from five Olympics, said in an interview with CNN there had been times when he didn’t want to be alive and he is now focused on his battle with depression and helping others suffering from the disease.
“I’d like to make a difference, I’d like to be able to save a life if I can,” Phelps said on Friday. “For me, that’s more important than winning a gold medal.
“I was able to do some pretty incredible things in the swimming pool and I struggled outside as well. There was a part of my life I didn’t want to be alive.”
Following the 2012 London Olympics Phelps hit a new low, saying he did not want to be alive, and he had what he described as a “scary” moment recently to confirm his struggle with depression is an ongoing one that is likely to continue throughout his life.
“Two to three weeks ago I went through a pretty scary depression spell,” Phelps told CNN. “This is something that’s going to continue to happen in my life, but the more I can learn about myself and understand why I’m going through these things.
“It’s going to make my life better and I can teach other people or help other people and that is something that’s so important to me and I’m very proud and honored to be able to do.”
The 33-year-old Phelps, who retired from swimming after the 2016 Rio Olympics, has found stability in his family life having married Nicole Johnson in 2016 and in February the couple announced the birth of their second child.
“(My wife) is my everything and my rock and helps me through everyday life,” Phelps said. “I definitely wouldn’t be who I am without her.
“She was somebody who really helped me through my most recent time.
“I do like who I am and I’m comfortable with who I am. I couldn’t say that a few years ago.
“So I’m in a very good place and just living life one day at a time.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond