Michael Phelps returns to competition on Thursday for the first time since 2012, and the swimming superstar doesn’t know what to expect or where his comeback will take him.
“I am looking forward to wherever this road takes me, and I guess the journey will start tomorrow,” a relaxed Phelps said on Wednesday as he looked ahead to racing in the 100m butterfly at the Mesa Grand Prix swim meet on Thursday.
The 28-year-old insisted he didn’t yet know if his comeback would take him all the way to a fifth Olympics in Rio in 2016 but, so far, he said, he’s having a blast.
“I just missed being back in the water,” said Phelps. “We’ll see what happens here. Who knows?”
Phelps, originally entered in the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle, said he’ll swim only the 100m fly – one of three individual events in which he still holds the world record.
He will also contest the 50m freestyle on Friday.
He and coach Bob Bowman said the meeting in suburban Phoenix will serve a chance for Phelps to gauge his conditioning with the US championships – a selection meeting for the 2015 World Championships – looming in August.
Phelps was last seen on a competition deck receiving the plaudits of his peers at the conclusion of swimming events at the 2012 London Olympics.
He walked away from the greatest Olympic career in history having amassed a record 22 medals – 18 of them gold and eight won in a breathtaking eight events at the 2008 Beijing Games.
When he departed London, Phelps said he had “achieved everything I ever wanted to do”, and he chuckled as those words were quoted back to him on Wednesday.
“I always have goals and have things I want to achieve, and I have things that I want to achieve now,” said Phelps, sounding a slightly defiant note when asked if a comeback that fell short of Olympic glory might tarnish his reputation.
“In terms of tarnishing my career, I said it before – I’m doing this for me.
“If I don’t become as successful as you all think I would be or should be, and you think it tarnishes my career, then that’s your own opinion.”