Today at a swim meet in Mesa, Arizona, Michael Phelps swam his first race since the 2012 Olympics in London. The goal was to “test the waters a little bit and see how it goes,” his longtime coach Bob Bowman told the AP on April 14.
The results are in, and it went swimmingly.
The 22-time Olympic medalist beat rival Ryan Lochte by a tenth of a second in the preliminary round of the 100-meter butterfly. Phelps’ 52.84 seeded him first going into the finals heat, but Lochte bested Phelps for the win with a 51.93, followed by Phelps' second-place 52.13.
Phelps was expected to race the 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly events, but announced at a press conference before the meet that he would scratch the 100 free, without further explanation.
When pressed about the motivation for his return, Phelps said, “I’m doing this because I want to. I want to be back in the water…I’m having fun.” He also credited a love of competition, and a desire to get back into pro form.
“When he first came back, he was so out of shape,” Bowman said to laughter from the press-conference crowd. “So it took a while to say, ‘OK, he can do this in public for somebody.’”
Phelps said he spent his time off traveling, golfing, and putting on more than 30 pounds; he peaked at 225 after racing in London at 187. Now at 194 with a podium finish under his suit, it seems Phelps is back, just like the popular hashtag proclaims.
But Phelps hasn’t announced that he’s aiming for the 2016 Olympics. Even if he did, he won’t get an automatic in. “Should Phelps’ comeback journey lead to the Olympic Trials, he’ll have to re-qualify for the Olympics,” USA Swimming’s Mike Gustafson writes. “There are fast swimmers on the circuit right now. They’ll be faster in 2016. Phelps knows this, Bowman knows this, but many swim fans don’t.”
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