Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren has congratulated American swimmer Michael Phelps for his record 23rd gold medal at the Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro, and said that God has a great future planned for the swimmer, who once contemplated suicide.
“Saw Michael Phelps, #PurposeDrivenSwimmer, win his 23rd gold! I’ve prayed for you each day in Rio. God has a great future for you,” Warren wrote in a Facebook message on Sunday.
The 31-year-old athlete won his fifth gold at the Rio games along with teammates Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller and Nathan Adrian in the men’s 4×100 medley relay, beating out Britain and Australia, who came in second and third respectively.
Phelps, who has 28 medals from five Olympics, which is 10 times more than anyone else, says that this Game will be his last.
“Getting off the bus and walking to the pool tonight, I pretty much felt myself starting to crack,” the legendary swimmer said, according to BBC News.
“Last warm-up, last time putting on a suit, last time walking out in front of people, representing my country… it’s insane,” he added.
“This is how I wanted to finish my career. I’ve lived a dream come true. Being able to cap it off with these Games is just the perfect way to finish.”
Phelps announced his retirement after the 2012 London Olympic Games, but faced an identity crisis that led to DUI arrests and a self-admitted “downward spiral” that left him contemplating suicide.Phelps said in an ESPN report that he was “struggling to figure out who he was outside the pool,” which led to heavy drinking.
“I thought the world would just be better off without me,” he said recalling the dark time. “I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.”
It was Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life that gave him hope after checking into a psychological trauma and addiction treatment center in Arizona.
The book uplifted him so much that he was reportedly nicknamed “Preacher Mike” by fellow patients, since he would often read to them from the book.
In a separate interview, Phelps told “Today:” “I don’t know if it was, like, afraid of just letting go and showing who I am or what it was. And, and I finally was just, like, ‘You know what? Screw this. I’m not, I’m not hiding behind anything anymore. I am who I am. And, and you don’t like it, it’s really not my issue and it’s not my problem.'”
Warren congratulated Phelps earlier in August for facing his troubles, and for his recovery.
“I’m proud of @MichaelPhelps for his victories even before the Olympics begin. Excited he’ll be carrying the flag for the US,” the pastor wrote at the time.