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4 Questions Raised by Michael Phelps’s Return to Olympic Competition

Posted on August 29, 2014 by Martin Banks

Just when we had begun contemplating a summer Olympics without swimming veteran and champion Michael Phelps, we suddenly find we don’t have to.

He shocked everyone with the unexpected announcement that he would be stepping out of retirement to compete for gold once more.

Perhaps it’s because he truly missed being in the water: what some consider to be his natural element. Others think it could be the leader in him, as performances by other American swimmers leave much to be desired as of late.

michael phelps

As all eyes turn to Brazil, the host nation of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, there are some questions that many would like to see answered by and of Phelps before he hits the water in a couple of years’ time.

Why did he Leave Retirement?

“I missed being in the water,” said Phelps of his absence. “And I missed those kinds of races.”

The “kinds of races” the 29-year-old Olympian is referring to is his thrilling swim-off against Kosuke Hagino of Japan.

Phelps lost by 0.02 seconds.

The close loss seemed to only further motivate Phelps to work hard to return to a truly competitive form.

“I already started talking to Bob [Bowman] about some of the things I need to do and times I need to go before the world championships next year,” said Phelps.

Bowman, who is Phelp’s coach, is admittedly “pleased with the way he swam” in his races. He said of his effort that he is starting to look very much like his old self again. Phelps has been training in his custom pools like these trying to get back to where he used to be.

Can he be his Old Self Again?

If Michael Phelps is successful in finding a spot on the Olympic swim team, he will have featured in five different Olympic Games, training and preparing over a span of nearly two decades.

While a 15-year-old Phelps was of no consequence in 2000, during the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, he left his mark as perhaps the greatest Olympic swimmer in history.

He has won more medals than anyone else: 18 gold medals and 22 medals in all.

It seemed that he was all but winding down in 2012, sensing that the end was near. After all, very very few Olympians participate beyond four different games.

As the body ages, it gets harder to compete with younger and hungrier athletes. Phelps may be getting closer to finding his competitive form, but one cannot wind back the clock.

There is some concern that even Phelps at his best will not be enough to help the American swim team.

Will his Presence Lift the American Team?

With the dominance of Michael Phelps over two Olympics, it was hard to think of a better team during that period. Or perhaps the overall team was lifted in terms of aspiration and inspiration by the presence of a record-breaking athlete.

In Phelps absence, it is the Australian team that is beginning to stake a claim as a dominating force in competitive swimming.

They hope to be the top team in the world by 2020.

The United States has athletes struggling to get into the top 10 of competitive results, never mind standing toe to toe with Australia.

“We’re not where we need to be,” said Bowman.

Perhaps Phelps push for his old form as well as his perch as the best in the world will bring out the best in his teammates.

If not, then Phelps’s return could be overshadowed by a truly disappointing Team USA performance.

Is THIS Phelps’s Final Olympic Appearance?

When Phelps waved at us from the top of the podium during the 2012 London Olympic Games, it appeared safe to assume that it represented the last time we would see Phelps at the Olympics.

He had won more medals than any other swimmer. He had achieved more during his career than perhaps any other Olympic athlete ever.

There was no reason to be surprised when Phelps announced his retirement. It all seemed a natural close to an amazing career.

Everyone, including Phelps, was a bit premature with the goodbyes. There is already speculation that we could be seeing Phelps in 2020.

Perhaps it’s best to allow Phelps to retire (again) and then wait and see what happens.

It is truly exciting to see Phelps in the water competing again. Even as he works hard to get back into shape, he is still at a level that few in the world can match.

Perhaps like the most elite athletes in sports, Phelps is finding it hard to say goodbye to truly being the best there is.

He likely feels there’s more in him to give for the American swim team.

Whatever his personal beliefs and motivations, Michael Phelps has given everyone MAJOR reason to tune into the Summer Olympic Games in 2016.

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