Michael Phelps comeback: Most successful Olympian ever to return to the pool amid talk of Rio 2016 comeback

Phelps will come out of retirement to swim the Arena Grand Prix in Arizona next week having not competed since the London 2012 Olympic Games

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, is coming out of retirement to swim next week at the Arena Grand Prix in Arizona.

The meet will be his first competitive meet since the 2012 London Olympics, where he won the last of his 18 golds and 22 medals overall — a staggering total no one else comes close to. 

The swimmer's camp is remaining low-key about the comeback, refusing even to acknowledge it's the first step toward competing at the 2016 Rio Games although everyone knows Phelps wouldn't be going to all this trouble (drug testing, training five days a week) if he wasn't preparing for the only meet that really matters. 

By taking that approach, Phelps has left himself with plenty of wiggle room should his comeback fail to meet his own incredibly high standards. Rest assured, he doesn't want to wash out like others who came out of retirement, including fellow swimmers Ian Thorpe and Janet Evans. Both attempted to qualify for the London Olympics and didn't make it past their national trials, a sad epitaph to their brilliant careers. 

Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, insisted nothing can take away from Phelps' impact on the sport, no matter what happens over the next week or month or two years. 

"His legacy is sealed," Bowman told The Associated Press on Monday. 

It should help that Phelps is planning to swim less-strenuous races and fewer events than he did in his prime. And he's still only 28, far from over the hill as an athlete. 

"He wouldn't be doing this if he didn't think he could do it," said Dara Torres, who pulled off numerous comebacks and won three silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at age 41. 

How impressive is Phelps' legacy? Here's a look at five of his most memorable moments: 

GREAT HAUL OF CHINA: Phelps will forever be linked to his remarkable performance in Beijing, where he won eight gold medals (five individual, three relays) to break Mark Spitz's iconic Olympic record. Only 11 other athletes have won as many gold medals in their careers as Phelps won during that magical week in China. For good measure, he set or was part of seven world records. The only time he missed out might have been his most impressive triumph — rallying to beat Milorad Cavic by one-hundredth of a second in the 100-meter butterfly. 

DOUBLING DOWN: Phelps became the first swimmer to set world records in two different events on the same day at the 2003 world championships in Barcelona. He took down the mark in the 100-meter butterfly during a semifinal heat and smashed his own record in the final of the 200 individual medley about an hour later. 

LONDON CALLING: After serving a three-month suspension over an embarrassing bong picture and facing doubts about whether he wanted to keep competing, Phelps returned for his fourth Olympics in 2012. He swam seven events — one less than in 2004 and 2008 — and started out with a disappointing fourth-place finish in the 400 IM. He bounced back to win four golds and two silvers, smashing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's record of 18 career medals. 

YOUNG MICHAEL: In 2000, Phelps qualified for his first Olympic team at age 15, making him the youngest U.S. male swimmer since 1932. The following year, still three months short of his 16th birthday, he became the youngest male to set a world record in the 200 butterfly. 

AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE: A bit overlooked given Phelps' Olympic dominance was his performance at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, Australia. Tuning up for Beijing, he went 7-for-7 with five world records. Alas, he didn't get a chance to claim an eighth victory through no fault of his own; the heavily favored U.S. team was disqualified in the prelims of the 400 medley relay while Phelps was resting up for the final.

AP

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food