The American, who has not competed since the 2012 London Games,
will headline an April 24-26 meet in Mesa, Arizona, with fellow
Olympians Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky, USA Swimming said in a
statement on Monday.
Phelps's return to the pool touched off a wave of excitement on
social media that added more fuel to speculation that the
28-year-old is planning to compete in Brazil, but his longtime coach
did little to fan the flames.
"I don't think anybody knows," Bob Bowman told Reuters in a phone
interview when asked if Phelps's return to competitive swimming was
a step toward swimming at the 2016 Olympics.
"Certainly he has done some training and gotten into decent physical
condition and thought it would be fun to try some racing and we will
find out next week how that goes.
"I don't think we can really call it a comeback yet. We'll see how
next week goes and take it from there. But (Rio) is a possibility
since he decided to consistently train."
Already the most decorated Olympian of all time, Phelps rejoined the
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's drug testing program last November
offering the first hint that he was considering a return to the pool
in a bid for more Olympic gold.
World swimming governing body FINA requires athletes to be tested
for a minimum of nine months before competing in sanctioned events.
Phelps was tested twice in the quarter ended September 30, according
to data released by USADA.
"He went through the nine-month probation period from FINA on the
drug testing to get back into the competitive pool, so he is that
serious about (a comeback)," said Bowman.
"But honestly we don't have any expectations, we don't know where he
is, we'll find out a lot more after Mesa and then we can really
think about what might happen after that or won't happen after that.
Phelps retired from competitive swimming after winning four gold and
two silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics to take his career
tally to 22, 18 of which were gold.
"GREAT FOR SWIMMING"
He had repeatedly said before the London Games he would not
contemplate a comeback and consider a return to compete at what
would be his fifth Olympics in Rio.
Retired U.S. swimmer Dara Torres, who has won 12 medals in five
Olympics, was not surprised by news Phelps was returning to
competitive swimming, saying it was something she expected since the
day he retired.
"So funny because when he announced his retirement I went in Twitter
and tweeted "who wants to bet MP (Michael Phelps) will come out of
retirement for Rio?", Torres told Reuters in an email. "And he
tweeted me back and said 'I will!'
[to top of second column]
"You know I feel sorry for those swimmers who thought they had a
better shot of winning a gold because Michael Phelps was retired.
"He's an unbelievable athlete and it's great for the sport of
The Arena Grand Prix in Mesa is the fourth stop of USA Swimming's
2013-14 Arena Grand Prix Series, which provides the nation's best
swimmers six opportunities to face top-flight competition on U.S.
Bowman said Phelps had been entered in the 100 meters freestyle,
100m butterfly and the 50m butterfly.
"It's just a start, I think it is something he will have a good time
with," said Bowman. "Unfortunately the program has the 100 meter
free and 100 fly, two of the events, on the first day so in the
morning he will probably swim both and if he makes it to the finals
we'll probably pick one to swim in at night.
"The second day we entered him in the 50 and he will probably do the
butterfly instead of the freestyle just for fun."
While Bowman had downplayed any suggestions Phelps was considering a
return, he said he was now in full support of his comeback because
the swimmer was doing it the right way and for all the right
"He's really enjoying it and that is why I am condoning his return,"
said Bowman. "He is doing it for all the right reasons.
"He doesn't have anything to prove, his legacy is sealed forever and
he is just doing it because he loves to swim."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto;
editing by Frank Pingue)
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