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Michael Phelps is living his best life: 5 takeaways from NYT interview in Arizona

This summer has been a sobering reminder that athletic glory can be fleeting — even for the most decorated swimmer and overall athlete in Olympic history, Baltimore’s Michael Phelps.

On July 24, Kristof Milak of Hungary captured the 200-meter butterfly race at the world swimming championships in Gwangju, South Korea. His winning time of 1 minute, 50.74 seconds edged Phelps’ record of 1:51.51 set at the 2009 world championships in Rome.

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Two days later, Caeleb Dressel broke Phelps’ 100-meter butterfly mark by 0.32 seconds in a time of 49.50 seconds. And two days after that, the American collected his eighth medal of the world championships when he contributed to the national team’s silver finish in the 4x100-meter medley relay. Dressel overtook Phelps’ record of seven gold medals at the 2007 world championships in Melbourne.

But rather than be dismayed, Phelps sounded proud of the swimmers’ achievements in an in-depth interview with The New York Times published Monday.

“It’s frustrating that the records didn’t last longer, but I love being able to see kids breaking through,” he said from the Paradise Valley Country Club in Arizona. “That is awesome. You have to have performances like that in the sport in order to see the sport continue to grow and evolve. If you have records that are completely untouchable, people will be, like, ‘Oh my God, why even try?’ ”

Here are four more takeaways from the article.

Don’t mistake Phelps’ mental calmness for an absence of competitive fire. The 34-year-old father of two — sons Boomer, 3, and Beckett, 1 — took umbrage with a headline saying Dressel had surpassed Phelps.

“No, he didn’t,” Phelps said. “When I won seven golds at the 2007 meet, I broke five world records. Kristof Milak broke one world record. I broke 39. So, keep going. Break that record 10 more times. Hold it for 18 years. It’s about longevity.”

Recent controversies about the pervasiveness of performance-enhancing drugs in swimming have bothered Phelps. But that does not mean he approves of decisions by Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of England to shun freestyler Sun Yang of China on the medals podium.

“I understand the frustrations of the people taking very public stands," he said. "But by focusing on what other people are doing, they’re expending a lot of time and energy on something that is out of their control. There’s only one group of people who can really clean up the sport and that’s FINA.”

Phelps and his wife, Nicole, are expecting their third child in October. Fatherhood has braced him for the realization that the adults will be outnumbered by children.

“We had no idea what we were doing with the first one, we had no idea what we were doing with two. We sure as hell don’t know what to do with three," Phelps said.

Since retiring after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Phelps takes peace from time in the kitchen. His favorite time of the day? Making dinner for the family.

"I used to have conversations and do multiple things at once, but after burning this and undercooking that, I learned that when I’m in the kitchen, I have to focus on what I’m doing if I don’t want to accidentally burn down the house or poison my family,” Phelps said.

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