Now that he's away from the pool, Michael Phelps can reflect - really reflect - on what he accomplished.
"It's kind of nuts to think about everything I've gone through," Phelps said. "I've finally had time to myself, to sit back and say, '... that really happened?' It's kind of shocking at times."
Not that his career needed a capper, but Phelps added one more honor to his staggering list of accomplishments Thursday - The Associated Press male athlete of the year.
Phelps edged out LeBron James to win the award for the second time, not only a fitting payoff for another brilliant Olympics (four gold medals and two silvers in swimming at the London Games) but recognition for one of the greatest careers in any sport.
Phelps finished with 40 votes in balloting by U.S. editors and broadcasters, while James was next with 37. Track star Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals in London, was third with 23.
Carl Lewis is the only other Olympic-related star to be named AP male athlete of the year more than once, taking the award for his track and field exploits in 1983 and '84. The only men honored more than twice are golf's Tiger Woods and cyclist Lance Armstrong (four times each), and basketball's Michael Jordan (three times).
"Obviously, it's a big accomplishment," Phelps said. "There's so many amazing male athletes all over the world and all over our country. To be able to win this is something that just sort of tops off my career.
"That's what I wanted to do," Phelps said. "Now that it's over, it's something I can look back on and say, 'That was a pretty amazing ride.'"