“Some people make it so complicated, but for me success is about putting in the time and the work and honest effort, using your mental and physical strengths to be your best. I believe that I have some talent for the sport, but nothing beats hard work and dedication. It’s about overcoming obstacles and always coming out on the positive side.

Being involved with a company like Omega is a perfect fit, because timing is such a vital part of my sport – in fact, it is important to all sports. If you look at all my sponsors, every one fits what I do. For me, timing is an important part of my life. To be able to be a part of the best timing system in the world is just an honour. It has also been a privilege to get to know the whole Omega team over the years. It’s like a family. I’ve worked with the same people the entire time.

I wasn’t a watch guy when I started working with Omega, but I sure am now. I love something different when it comes to watches. I love having a watch that very few people have. One of my favourite watches is the Dark Side of the Moon, black on black, which is what I am wearing right now. I wanted this watch as soon as I saw it. With Omega, I am excited proud to be part of the family and to be an ambassador. I am always on the lookout for my next Omega watch. Everyone in my family is a big Omega fan.

I really enjoy the actual training and the preparation. I love to compete, but I know that if I am not training, the end of the road accomplishment won’t happen. With anything in life, you can’t just glide through and cut corners. When I go to a meet and something doesn’t go my way, I go back and work on what I need to fix. This really motivates me.

Waking up early is the worst part of training. I am a grouch, a pain to deal with in the morning. There was a rule when I was growing up that my coach Bob Bowman and I couldn’t communicate until after 8am. We’ve gotten past that. The process now is easier for me in the morning. We don’t have mad early workouts like we did when I was growing up – I used to have to get up at 5:45am, but now we are up at 9am.

In general, I always have an idea of how fast I am going. Last summer was the first time I was surprised that I went so fast. There are times when I don’t know, but 95 per cent of the time I know. In workouts, I will do 50m and Bob (Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman) will time me and ask me what I did, and I am usually within a half a second.

I remember every race and moment from my career. Some are exciting – others I want to forget, but I never will. It’s hard not to say Beijing was my favourite Olympic, because I wanted to change the sport and do something someone had never done before. Having the mental strength to say that I didn’t care what people thought, and I knew it was possible to win all the medals I did. It was very challenging and there was a lot of pain, but it was what I wanted to do.

I can tell you about every race I have ever swum, and I can even remember what was going through my mind at the time. I have had some very good ones and a couple of bad ones, but they have all helped me in one way, shape or form. It does feel like Sydney, my first Olympics, was yesterday. Getting ready to have a child, I am starting to realise how quickly it all went by. Sixteen years ago I was swimming in my first Olympics.

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. I wanted to come back – I didn’t want to end my career and have a ‘what if?’ For me, it is great being able to go into this year and whatever happens, happens. The results I get will be the results I deserve. I just want to be proud of how I finish my career. That is really important for me.

I have a better understanding of, and perspective on, my career. My outlook on life is much better today. I am back to the point where I am enjoying the process. In 2012, I didn’t want to continue. I wanted to be done and I wanted to move on to a different thing. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. Enjoying the process again today is one of the coolest experiences for me. Being able to find the passion that was missing for so long, for this I am forever grateful. I had to learn about myself and learn that not everything is perfect. Today, I wake up every day thankful and happy.”