Since you last appeared on the cover of AQ in 2015, you won three gold medals (100 meter, 200 meter, 4x100 meter relay) at the World Championships in Beijing. Do you feel you made a statement heading into these Olympic Games?
I think I did make a statement that I’m still the man to beat. After the injuries I had and the short season, people were saying that they didn’t think I would be able to do it. But I did.
Do you feel that negative energy around you when people are rooting against you?
I do! It does drive me to do better and to compete. I’m a very competitive person. I don’t like to lose, so when people want me to lose, it just makes me work that much harder to show them they are wrong.
This will be your third Olympic Games. Does it get easier or harder?
Well, easier in the sense that you know exactly what to expect and what you need to do to prepare. Harder in that the expectations ae higher and can weigh on you more, but I try not to let that happen.
No one has higher expectations for you than yourself. In our last interview, you felt your legacy was unfinished despite winning six gold medals.
I always put a lot of pressure on myself, because I know what I’m capable of. I know what I want. I put a lot more pressure on myself than people might think because my legacy is not complete. This year, we are building to that moment at the Olympics.
Are you able to enjoy the Olympics when you are in the moment?
Not really (laughs). After it’s over, I can enjoy it. But right now, it’s all work. There’s a determination you need to have to win at this level. For me, it’s all work.
After the Games, you’re competing in one more World Championships in London in 2017?
And then… Manchester United?
(Laughs) Hopefully! My coach keeps saying I shouldn’t talk about retirement. He says, “I know you might feel like you want to stop now, but you might get to the World Championships and decide you might want to do one more year.” So he wants me to take it a year at a time; see how I feel. After the World Championships in London, if I decide to retire, then that’s it, I’ll retire.
We recently talked at the opening of the brand new Hublot Boutique on Fifth Avenue in NYC. When you are standing on the stage with another icon like Pelé, do you still pinch yourself to see if its real?
Pelé is one of the all-time greats. To be in the same room with him, and he knew who I was, just to be able to have a conversation with him was great. I was happy just to meet him. Today was the first time we had ever met!
You now have a second signature watch made by Hublot. What was the inspiration for the design?
When they asked me about the design for a second watch they asked me what I wanted it to be. I told them I wanted it to stand out. Make it pop! I feel like I stand out in my sport and I wanted the watch to represent that and they really did it. I really appreciated just being a part of it.
What do you want your legacy to be now?
I want to be the absolute best I can be. When I retire, I want people to remember me as one of the greats. After this Olympics, I don’t want there to be any doubt.