Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images
Michael Phelps is testing the waters.
The decorated swimmer is coming out of retirement, the first step toward possibly competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 22-time Olympic medalist will compete for the first time since the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., April 24-26.
Phelps will swim the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly. "I think he's just going to test the waters a little bit and see how it goes," coach Bob Bowman said. "I wouldn't say it's a full-fledged comeback." The athlete has been training Monday-Friday with Bowman's team at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. "He's gotten back into good shape since September," Bowman said, per ESPN. "He can give a good effort and certainly not be embarrassed. He's in enough shape to swim competitively."
Phelps had vowed that he wouldn't swim into his thirties. "I think he's just really enjoying it," Bowman said of Phelps' pool return. "He enjoys the training and being physically fit. He just kind of wants to see where he's at. It's more really for fun. It's been nice for me to see him swim just for the joy of it really."
"He's really doing this because he wants to—there's no outside pressure at all," Bowman reiterated.
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The Olympian has already entered the remaining Grand Prix meets in Charlotte, N.C., in May and Santa Clara, Calif., in June. Bowman said it's premature to assume he will actually compete. Depending on his early results, Phelps could also swim in the U.S. National Championships in August in Irvine, Calif., where teams will be selected for the 2015 world championships. "I wouldn't say it's 100 percent on the radar," Bowman said of Phelps' future plans. "After Mesa, we're going to sit down and talk about it."
Phelps seemed keen on leaving the sport behind in 2012. "I'm retiring. I'm done. I've been able to go to all these amazing cities in my travels and I haven't been able to see them at all. I see the hotel and I see the pool—that's it," he said on 60 Minutes. "I just want to go and do whatever I want to do."
Last summer, Phelps downplayed his rumored return to swimming. "Man, people will believe anything that's written, anything that's on TV," he told The Baltimore Sun. "There's nothing in the works with me coming back to swimming. This is a part of my life I'm enjoying. I've never had freedom like this. I live on my own time. I play golf three or four times a week. I wake up whenever I want. I have a few things to do here and there, but mostly my time is mine. I'm not thinking about changing that."