“There’s nothing like being back home!! Great way to spend my first day in retirement!!” These words on Instagram, accompanied by a picture of Michael Phelps in the pool with his fiancée Nicole Johnson and baby son Boomer, confirmed that competitive swimming is now over for one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known.

Phelps has competed in five Olympics (not medalling in his first Games – Sydney 2000 – when he was just 15-years-old), winning a total of 28 Olympic medals – 23 of them gold – he is the most decorated Olympian of all time. Five days after winning the last of his 2016 haul of five golds and one silver, he announced his exit from from the sport  – for a second time, having first announced his retirement after the 2012 Olympics in London.

Phelps retirement came as no huge surprise. Back in May he told the Editor-in-Chief of Revolution US, Keith Strandberg: “This is my last Olympics – and this time I actually mean it. For me, starting a new life, welcoming a child into this world, starting a family is something I am looking forward to. I am excited to turn the page and start something fresh.”

In a final farewell to life as an Olympian, Phelps visited Omega House in Rio de Janeiro, along with fellow swimmers and Omega ambassadors, South African double silver-medal-winner Chad le Clos and Russian Alexander Popov, who is regarded as one of the greatest sprint freestylers in history. During the evening Phelps took part in a Q&A session revealing insights into his mindset as he begins his new life.

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on

You said that you had “unfinished business” going into Rio 2016. What was that?

I always have things that I think I can improve on. That’s just how I’ve always worked in my life. I did do a best time, but I didn’t break a world record. I went my fastest 100 split in the relay. But in all, this is exactly what I wanted. I knew coming into these Olympic Games that I was prepared and I was ready to swim. One of the biggest things that I really wanted was the 200 fly victory. I wanted that gold medal to retire with. I’ve been in five Olympic Games in that race and I wanted to finish on top. Being able to win five more Olympic gold medals and one more silver medal, there’s no better way to finish a career.

We’ve seen a lot of emotion from you in Rio, especially on the podium.

I think it was finally setting in that this was my last time – my last meet, my last warm-up, my last races ever. That was going through my head the whole time and I was replaying a lot of my past 24-year swimming career. That just made me emotional. I didn’t have that in London and that’s why you can tell that this is it. I’m done. No more.

What is the best memory you’ll take away from Rio?

Swimming-wise it was probably the 200 fly – it was probably one of the best races of my life. But also spending time with the team. We had 30-something rookies, so being able to get to know them and help them, being elected as captain for the first time and carrying the flag. I don’t think anything could have gone any better, it has been a true dream come true.

Three of you tied for silver in the 100m butterfly. Describe that moment when you all looked up at the scoreboard.

Going into the wall I knew I was behind. I kind of thought: ‘Is the perfection going to come to an end? Or am I going to get lucky again?’ I’ve been very lucky in the 100 fly and been able to get my hand on the wall first. This time it went to Joe [Schooling of Singapore], who is a great competitor and very talented. I looked up at the scoreboard and saw ‘2’ and I thought: ‘OK, I accept it. I’m happy with that. 51.1 seconds is faster than I went in London, I’m good.” And then I saw Chad and I looked up and saw that we’d tied. Then I saw László [Cseh of Hungary], and I looked up again, and we’d all tied. Laszlo I’ve had history with for probably 12 years and Chad and I over the past four years have obviously had our history. It’s really kind of a cool feeling to be up there with those two guys, on my last individual race, sharing a podium together for a silver medal.

There is a photo of you and Joseph Schooling when he was 13 years old and you were competing in Beijing. How does it feel to be an inspiration to athletes like him?

That’s finally starting to set in – that some of the things I’ve done in the sport has changed it. I’ve been able to excite younger swimmers to go after their gold and not be afraid and to dream big. I remember that day with Joe. We were driving around on a golf cart looking for monkeys. He’s someone I’m definitely looking forward to seeing in the future and hopefully some fast times.

The bruises you’ve experienced through the “cupping procedure” [a Chinese therapy where special cubs are applied to the skin before either heat or an air pump are used to create suction and pull the skin slightly up and away from the underlying muscles] have caused a lot of interest during the Games?

My trainer who I’ve worked with for the past 14 years is always trying new things. He knows me and what I like so he asked me and a couple of the athletes to try it. So, two or three years ago I tried it and I loved it. It’s just a quick five-minute intense massage in a certain area and it’s been something that we’ve done for recovery. I have a cupping set at home so I’ll get Nicole to cup my back or cup my shoulders if I need it at night.

Omega Timekeeping has played a huge part in your career. Tell us about that?

I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing companies in my life. Working with Omega I can honestlyx say is the best. We’ve spent the longest time together and they feel like a family to me. Being able to have the best timing system in the world at our events, every single year. We know the times are great. We know the times are perfect. There’s nobody else I’d rather be with.