Michael Phelps, known to be the world’s most decorated Olympic athlete, will return to the pool on April 24-26 for the Arena Grand Prix, ending his retirement. The swim meet will take place at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Arizona.
Phelps is set to enter three events: the 100-meter butterfly, the 50-meter freestyle, and the 100-meter freestyle. It will be his first competition since his 22-medal win in the London Games in 2012. By competing again, Phelps may also have a chance to swim at the next Summer Olympic Games in 2016, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 28-year-old champion swimmer returned to his training regimen in the fall of last year and also re-entered the United States drug-testing program. Phelps was able to complete the six-month waiting period required by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that would give him the eligibility to compete.
Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach since he was 11, said that the April swim meet is a chance for Phelps “to test the waters” to see how it goes, and is not necessarily a complete comeback. He says that Phelps has been training five days a week at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club and is in “enough shape” to compete but is still not in his top form.
If the results of the swim meet aren't up to par with Phelps’ performance in the previous Olympics, Bowman said that it won’t tarnish the swimmer’s reputation: “His legacy is sealed.”
Aside from Phelps, fellow Olympians Katie Ledecky and Ryan Lochte are also expected to join the Arena Grand Prix. Ledecky shared her enthusiasm for Phelps’ comeback, saying that it will “bring some more energy to swimming again,” adding that Phelps has nothing to lose “whether he adds a couple more gold medals or not.”
Apart from the competition, Phelps may be swimming again for something else: fun. According to Bowman, “I think he’s just really enjoying it… He enjoys the training and being physically fit.” Phelps doesn't need the money, having already earned millions of dollars in endorsements.
Chuck Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming, was happy Phelps was returning to the pool, saying that the move “will surely inspire even more kids to give swimming a try.”
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