Michael Phelps’ comeback starts in Arizona


Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, is coming out of retirement to swim at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24-26.

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.

Bob Bowman, the swimmer’s longtime coach, told The Associated Press on Monday that Phelps is entered in three events — the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly. Phelps’ 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.

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 said.

A LOOK AT PHELPS’ LEGACY

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie: A bit overlooked given Phelps’ Olympic dominance was his performance at the 2007 world championships in Melbourne, Australia. Tuning up for Beijing, he went 7-for-7 with five world records.

Great haul of China: Phelps will forever be linked to his remarkable performance in Beijing in 2008, where he won eight gold medals (five individual, three relays) to break Mark Spitz’s iconic Olympic record.

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 fewer 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.