Skip to content

Michael Phelps ready to start ‘journey’ in comeback meet

Apr 23, 2014, 6:33 PM EST

Michael Phelps Getty Images

Michael Phelps said he hit 20,000 golf balls in six months and gained 30 pounds in retirement.

“There was something I missed,” Phelps said Wednesday. “I just missed being back in the water.”

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, will swim competitively for the first time since the 2012 Olympics on Thursday.

He’s bearded and at a comeback meet in Mesa, Ariz., where he is scheduled to swim the 100m butterfly on Thursday and the 50m freestyle on Friday.

What are his expectations?

“Race,” Phelps said. “That’s really all I can ask for right now. I haven’t raced since the 400 medley relay in London. So, just being able to get back in that sort of mentality of competition. That’s one thing that I really love the most about it. When I was really competing in 2012 and throughout my career.”

Phelps no longer sponsored by Speedo

Phelps, 28, has not committed to making a run to the 2016 Rio Olympics, which would be his fifth Games. He said he always has goals and there are things he wants to achieve, but as his custom, would not reveal specifics.

“I guess I’m at least going with my mom [to Rio de Janeiro],” Phelps said. “Whether I’m in the pool or in the stands, I guess time will tell.”

Phelps said he was antsy to get in the pool Wednesday, for post-travel warm-ups at the Skyline Aquatic Center, including what he believed was his first massage since winning six medals, including four golds, at the London Olympics.

Phelps said at least six times in a 14-minute press conference that he’s been having fun since returning to training last year.

His first goal when he jumped back in at North Baltimore Aquatic Club was to get back in shape after getting up to 225 pounds in the year after the Olympics. He previously raced at 187 and was at 194 last week, he said.

Video: Lochte inspired by Phelps’ comeback

“I’m doing this because I want to,” he said. “Nobody’s forcing me. … For me, going into 2012, it was hard. There were a lot ups and downs. It was very challenging, at times, to get motivated. I literally can’t say it enough. I’m having fun.”

His longtime coach, Bob Bowman, said Phelps is happier in training now than before.

“When he first came back he was so out of shape, it’s hard to believe,” said Bowman, sitting next to Phelps.

“Sugarcoat it at least,” Phelps pleaded.

“So it took a while [until January] to get to a point where, OK, he could do this in public,” Bowman said.

Phelps said he at first held off on officially ending his retirement last year. Athletes have to re-enter a drug-testing pool and wait for a period before being able to compete again.

How to watch Michael Phelps’ return in Mesa

“I kind of put one foot in,” Phelps said. “Wasn’t really ready.”

What are the worst parts of the comeback? Two things. One, the pain of training at elevation in Colorado Springs. Two, his experience level compared to other North Baltimore swimmers.

“I really am the grandfather now of the group,” Phelps said. “That’s the worst part about it. I’m the old man.”

Phelps spent plenty of time playing golf in retirement. He’ll be leaving his clubs in the bag more often, for now.

“Golf is something that I will be able to do for the rest of my life,” Phelps said. “There still is a lot of work that needs to be done in that sport for me to be able to get to where I want to go, even after hitting 20,000 golf balls in six months. That will always still be there.”

Phelps’ comeback has been compared to that of Australian legend Ian Thorpe, who came out of a four-year retirement in 2011 and failed to make the 2012 Olympic Team. Thorpe, like Phelps, was 28 when he came back, but he had barely competed since the 2004 Olympics. This is a vastly different scenario.

“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,” Phelps said. “I’m doing this because I want to come back. I enjoy being in the pool, and I enjoy being in the sport of swimming.

“I think Bob and I can do anything that we put our minds to, and that’s what we’ve done in the past. I am looking forward to wherever this road takes me. I guess the journey will start tomorrow.”

Another Michael set to make splash in Mesa

Latest Posts
  1. Maksim Kovtun rallies to win Trophee Bompard; Grand Prix Final picture

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:24 PM EST

    Maksim Kovtun Getty Images

    It’s unlikely a U.S. man will qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

  2. Renaud Lavillenie, Valerie Adams win IAAF Athlete of the Year awards

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Renaud Lavillenie Getty Images

    This year’s winners came from unprecedented nations and events.

  3. Ashley Wagner trails, Denis Ten leads at Trophee Bompard (video)

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:24 PM EST

    Ashley Wagner AP

    Wagner could match a Michelle Kwan feat at the French event.

  4. Angelina Jolie showed Louis Zamperini scenes of ‘Unbroken’ on hospital bed

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:59 AM EST

    Angelina Jolie, Louis Zamperini AP

    “Unbroken” film about Olympian and World War II hero comes out on Christmas.

  5. Table tennis player shoves over referee after loss (video)

    Nov 20, 2014, 5:34 PM EST

    Table Tennis

    Young Dmitry Melnichenko lost the match, then lost his cool.

  6. Joss Christensen becomes ‘mountain man’ since Sochi Olympics

    Nov 20, 2014, 4:57 PM EST

    Joss Christensen Getty Images

    Olympic ski slopestyle champion uses a chainsaw every day.

  7. Louie Vito hopes to stand out after missing Olympics

    Nov 20, 2014, 3:03 PM EST

    Louie Vito Getty Images

    Vito thought he had what it took to make the Olympic team, but judges didn’t see it the same way.

  8. Claressa Shields wins first World Championships bout in 11 seconds (video)

    Nov 19, 2014, 11:30 PM EST

    Claressa Shields Getty Images

    Olympic champion could face the only woman who beat her in the quarterfinals.

  9. Mikaela Shiffrin finishes 15th, 16th in super-Gs in Colorado

    Nov 19, 2014, 8:25 PM EST

    Mikaela Shiffrin Getty Images

    “I don’t really want to race unless I have a shot at winning.”

  10. Vanessa-Mae faces retroactive Olympic ban

    Nov 19, 2014, 1:40 PM EST

    Vanessa Mae Getty Images

    Her name could be “erased from the list of participants,” IOC president said.

  11. Rio Olympics to have some morning track and field finals

    Nov 19, 2014, 11:29 AM EST

    Shalane Flanagan Getty Images

    Eight stadium events will have morning finals, a first for Olympic track and field since 1988.

  12. IOC proposes adding Olympic events, bid reforms

    Nov 18, 2014, 4:11 PM EST

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    The IOC will vote on 40 proposed changes to the Olympics in December.

  13. Ryan Lochte: I have no doubt Michael Phelps will come back

    Nov 18, 2014, 4:01 PM EST

    Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Also, Natalie Coughlin said she reached out to Phelps.

  14. Ryan Lochte unsure who is world’s best swimmer

    Nov 18, 2014, 3:52 PM EST

    Ryan Lochte, Kosuke Hagino, Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Four years ago, Michael Phelps’ coach said Lochte was the world’s best swimmer.

  15. Doha gets 2019 World Track and Field Championships over Eugene, Barcelona

    Nov 18, 2014, 9:23 AM EST

    Lamine Diack

    U.S. has never hosted the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

  16. Jennifer Kessy, Emily Day form new beach volleyball partnership

    Nov 17, 2014, 4:35 PM EST

    Jennifer Kessy Getty Images

    Olympic silver medalist’s partner in London was April Ross, who is now with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

  17. Bode Miller out until January due to back surgery

    Nov 17, 2014, 1:42 PM EST

    Bode Miller Getty Images

    Miller hopes to return one week before the one storied race he has never won.

  18. Peter Forsberg and the Olympics

    Nov 17, 2014, 1:16 PM EST

    Peter Forsberg Getty Images

    Swede being inducted into Hall of Fame authored one of the iconic Olympic moments in 1994.

Featured video

Yogging a hit at Youth Olympic Games