Sport | Micheal Phelps – The comeback conundrum

Michael Phelps has nothing more to prove in the sport of swimming, so talk of a comeback seems somewhat bizarre.

Now aged 28, Phelps will be 31 by the time the next Olympics are held in Rio, a tournament in which he holds the record for gold medals (a figure which stands at a cool 18 from just 3 Games). He also currently holds seven different world records, and has held a total of 39 in his career.

So why would Phelps consider a comeback? It’s important to note that he has not specifically said that he is doing so, but he is certainly leaving the door open for a return to the sport which he left following the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Rumours began to surface earlier this year that he would begin to compete again and was keen to participate in Rio 2016, and these were given substance last Friday when Phelps re-registered with the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Fans of the swimmer will likely be concerned that he is about to make a monumental mistake though, as there are many cases in sport when comebacks have failed.

Formula 1 fans had high hopes when seven times champion Michael Schumacher returned to Formula 1 in 2010 for a Mercedes outfit with the technical expertise of Ross Brawn, but the comeback turned out to be a complete flop, and the German driver’s best result in three years was a fourth place finish in 2011’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Before the end of Phelps’ career, there were some signs that he was past his peak. His most recent world record came on 19th December 2009, which suggests that between 2010 and 2012 Phelps was on a decline.

This could be made worse by an absence from competing in the sport – Phelps has had to return to training with his old coach Bob Bowman in an attempt to return to his previous competition weight of 195 pounds – and the changes to his fitness regime may take their toll and affect his performance.

There’s no doubt that Phelps is the greatest swimmer, and one of the best Olympians in history, but he risks tarnishing this reputation if he fails to perform at Rio in 2016. Phelps went out of the sport as a true great on the back of four gold medals at London 2012 – and, unless he is confident of returning to his best, that is the way he should be remembered.

Ste Topping

Image courtesy of series-gtc

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