Michael Phelps fans: Do not get too excited just yet. Yes, the rumors are true that the Olympic swimmer is returning to the water to compete again but it is not to break his own records or set new ones—it is for his love of the sport. Many news outlets have been asking the question, “Will Michael Phelps live up to his pre-retirement status or will he be less than optimal when competing after too much time off?”
But according to Phelps, none of that really matters. The 22-time Olympic medalist (18 of which are gold) has already accomplished everything he had set out to achieve. He has also accumulated millions of dollars from endorsements during his swimming career so money is not driving his athletic pursuit either.
The fact of the matter is, Phelps misses being in the pool. The Olympian retired as of 2012 after the London Games and has kept himself busy with a chain of swim schools, appearances for his sponsors, and a foundation that focuses on water safety. He even participated in a reality show with coach Hank Haney and devoted much of his time to golf. But all play and no work equals boredom for this incredibly driven athlete.
Bob Bowman, Phlelps’ longtime swim coach, stated that the swimmer is enjoying training and being physically fit. He added that it was nice to see him swim just for the pleasure of swimming.
Michael Phelps will return to the water to compete at a swim meet at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Arizona on April 24 through April 26 and is scheduled to swim the 100 butterfly, and the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. Whether or not he makes a complete comeback is not what is important. Phelps is returning for his love of the sport, nothing more, nothing less.
Although the Olympian is not necessarily “in it to win it” per se, many of his swimming comrades were eager to hear that he is returning to the pool. Katie Ledecky, who is expected to swim at the meet in Arizona, said that she was excited to see what Phelps will bring to the table. She also mentioned that his presence will bring more vitality to swimming again.
Five-time-Olympic-swimmer Dara Torres has had plenty of practice with comebacks after retirement. Torres made the Olympic team at age 33 in the year 2000 after seven years in retirement, and again at age 41 in 2008 and won three silver medals.
Distance swimmer Janet Evans, who set the American record in the 800 meter freestyle which still stands, tried to make a comeback after 15 years of retirement in 2012 at age 40 but unfortunately did not make the Olympic team this time around. Although the results were not what she had hoped, she still considered her comeback a success. She stated that the courage it took for her to get back in the pool after all those years made her proud of herself and what she had achieved.
The question of whether Phelps will swim in the 2016 Olympics still remains to be seen. If the results from the Arizona meet fare well, he could compete in the U.S. National Championships in Irvine, California in August. Teams will then be selected for the 2015 world championships.
Regardless of the outcome, Michael Phelps is returning to the water for his love of the sport and will enjoy every moment in the pool, win or lose. One thing is for sure, it will be quite entertaining to see how Phelps performs and to witness a great athlete doing what he does best. Swim.
Commentary by Amy Nelson