Phelps retired after the 2012 London Olympics after he won his eighteenth gold medal; amassing 22 total medals in his career.
“I am getting older and it takes my body longer to recover after events,” said Phelps after his last race.
Phelps has decided to return to the water hoping to compete in the 2016 Rio Games at the age of 28.
Phelps has yet to come out with any statements of his own, but his camp has kept the public informed about the motivation behind his return.
“I think he’s just going to test the waters a little bit and see how it goes,” said Bob Bowman, Phelps’ longtime swim coach.
Phelps will compete in the 50 and 100 meter freestyles, and the 100 meter butterfly. Phelps also entered the U.S. drug testing program and has completed the six-month waiting period to be able to compete. He began training in the fall.
“He’s gotten back into pretty good shape since September,” Bowman said. “He’s in good enough shape to swim competitively, but pretty far from top shape.”
Despite being the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, some spectators don’t think he can be the competitor he was two summers ago.
“I don’t think he’ll get like five medals this time around, and I even think he knows that,” said Garrett Jacobs, a former Ohio State University swimming recruit and current ORU freshman.
Bowman shares the same sentiment.
“If he comes back and doesn’t win, I don’t think it’ll tarnish his reputation; his legacy is sealed,” Bowman said.
Phelps’ presence in the water provides potential endorsements and better ratings for USA swimming.
“Anytime you can have the most-decorated Olympian in history in the pool, it’s a fantastic thing for swimming,” said Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming. “USA Swimming and Michael share the goal of growing the sport, and his return to competition will surely inspire even more kids to give swimming a try.”