Michael Phelps’ comeback bid will continue next week at the U.S. national championships, and he will match his most ambitious program since returning to the sport. The 29-year-old will compete in the 100-meter freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley at the meet, which begins Wednesday in Irvine, California.
Phelps retired after the London Olympics after having won a record 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall in his Olympic career. He initially said he had accomplished everything he had set out to and had no desire to swim into his 30s. But after a brief time away from the sport, he was itching for a return. He started training seriously last September.
Phelps has competed in four meets since returning to competition in April. In that time he has only taken on four events once, and that came at the Santa Clara Grand Prix in June. At that meet he tied for first in the 100 fly, took second in both the 100 and 200 free and finished third in the 200 IM.
The nationals are a big chance for Phelps to show how far he has come since returning. It will also give him a chance to face off against his biggest rival, Ryan Lochte, in all for events.
Phelps conditioning and technique aren’t where they need to be for his run to the 2016 Rio Olympics, but if he can get back to an elite level we could see something truly special out of the greatest Olympian of all-time. He has already accomplished so much that anything he does now is just icing on the cake. He still needs to train with serious intensity, but if he can relax and enjoy himself in actual competitions he may wind up faring better.
This is great news for the U.S. swim team and the sport as a whole. Phelps brings interest with him and people will be paying attention to how he does next week.