After announcing his retirement with the commencement of the 2012 London Olympics, swimming icon Michael Phelps has officially announced he is un-retiring and will be competing at the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona from April 24-26. This decision is clearly the first step to him appearing at the 2016 Olympics, and making one last run at winning multiple gold medals.
This decision has been coming for a long time, as Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, told the Chicago Tribune in March that the swimmer would be appearing in a meet “sometime soon”. Furthermore, it seems to set Phelps with the perfect amount of time to compete in the big meets that he relishes, and shows that he is prepared to break his own rule of competing past the age of 30.
During this upcoming meet Phelps will be appearing in the 100-meter butterfly and the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events, which should to get him back into the groove of competing. There is almost no chance that he will win even one single event, but neither Phelps nor anyone else in the swimming world should worry considering he hasn’t swam competitively in a year and a half.
It is widely believed that this first event will be a precursor to multiple other competitions in the coming months, which will all be set with an eye towards competing and winning multiple events at the 2014 U.S. Championships this August. This will be especially important since the U.S. Championships competition is the selection meet for the 2015 World Championships, which will likely serve as the biggest test as to how many events Phelps could truly compete in at the 2016 Olympics.
At the age of 29, Phelps will never again win eight gold medals in one competition the way he did at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and even the six medal haul of the 2012 London Olympics seems a bit far-fetched. But as the top Olympic medalist ever at 18 gold and 22 overall, there is really no personal pressure on Phelps to do anything special in 2016, and that could mean something great for fans at home. After all, the guy is the most talented and accomplished swimmer ever, and even at the age of 31 he will likely win three to four gold medals in 2016, and will almost certainly walk home as the most decorated athlete in Brazil.