In the following video, a few hours after Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in history, and shortly after being upset in his signature event of the 200m Fly, he was asked by Bob Costas, "what went wrong?" (1:40 mark of the video). His response was incredibly honest, and one which most athletes can learn from. He admits that he got lazy in training, and it carried over to race day. All those lazy touches at the wall in training, and more, came back to bite him.
How many athletes can admit that? How many athletes when they lose or don't have the result they want can look in the mirror and recognize the little things, the details they have ignored? Everyone trains and prepares, everyone cares about the result. But very few care enough to do the details, and the ones who do win the races.
Watch the video here or below...
Perhaps another telling part of the interview is that he is satisfied, and he seems ok with the result he got, especially given how he hasn't been as committed as he knows he could have been. This is not a criticism of him, as it is admirable. Many athletes struggle to find this balance, and even some athletes don't realize their commitment level is not up to par, yet hold an expectation of almost gold standard.
I think many athletes can learn a lot from his brief statement.