Amidst the excitement of the 2012 Olympic games, was the sadness of saying goodbye to an athlete who had been as successful as historically possible in the games- Michael Phelps. Before he competed he had announced that he was going to retire from swimming after the London games.
Then Phelps announced in April of 2014 that he was coming out of retirement and was going to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Since then he has been training and hard at work for his last swim in the pool. However how many of us actually know for certain whether this is really going to be his last year swimming? He has stated that this is his last games however many people question his reasoning behind his decision.
As an avid swimmer watcher that I am, I am not complaining about watching Phelps compete and give a performance like no other of his; one that is exhilarating and breathtaking to watch. I know so many people that although they don’t even watch swimming they agree that seeing him perform is something different. No one will ever forget the 2008 performance by the men's 4x100 meter freestyle relay that won gold and beat France by out touching them and shattered the world record. The relay consisted of Phelps, Garrett Weber Gale, Cullen Jones, and Jason Lezak.
In addition, Phelps is most known for his outstanding performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in his 100 meter butterfly. He out touched his opponent, who had the lead the entire race right until the end. Phelps finished with a time of 50:58, only one hundredth of a second faster than the second place finisher, Milorad Cavic from Serbia.
The controversy is over the fact that so much was done for Phelps when he initially announced that he was retiring, like giving him a plaque with his name engraved in it in honor of his past performances, seems really awkward now that he actually isn’t retired.
In an interview with USA Today, Phelps explained that “‘Retirement was pretty boring, to be honest”he explained "It's funny — I literally would do nothing. If I was at home, I'd always try to, like, golf, or do something with friends, but everyone was working. Everyone had a job. I'd call and text people. I'd either go to the range and hit balls by myself. It got really boring. I'd never be home. I was always on the road traveling and seeing different people.’”
As an athlete myself I understand where he is coming from with the urge to constantly be doing something because there is no off season in swimming, it’s year round swimming. But not swimming for two years for any athlete catches up to them. Although it has been recorded that Phelps is looking to enjoy this summer rather than set super high expectations for himself like 2008 when he got gold for eight different events, breaking the record for the most gold medals received in one Olympic games, where Mark Spitz previously held it.
As we look forward to the summer games, all eyes are on Phelps and his performance. Although it’ll be great to see him once again in the pool, there’s a part of some viewers that are anxious for his infamous legacy and whether it’ll be taken away. Phelps would still be the most decorated Olympian of all time, without a doubt, however some people question what would happen if he lost events he usually wins, would he come back for another?
Phelps is currently engaged to former Miss California USA 2010, Nicole Michele Johnson, and also has a baby on the way.
Whereas competitors like Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, and Tom Shields have been training since the end of 2012. As it has been investigated by USA Today, Phelps has been training significantly less for these games compared to past years. He has focused on shorter events so the training isn’t as grueling. After spending a lot of his time getting back into shape and training his mentality to not constantly compare himself to his pastimes, Phelps is less than five months away from his end goal.
In 2015, Phelps used the U.S National championship as his ‘test’ meet. He had been dropped from the 2015 World Aquatic Championships due to his DUI in December of 2014. He won gold 100 meter butterfly, 200 meter butterfly, and 200 meter individual medley.
The Olympics are by far one my favorite events because of all the surprises that they hold. I don’t doubt Phelps’ ability to possibly win gold in the events he swims however I do know that swimmers like Ryan Lochte; long time competitor against Phelps, Tom Shield; a 24 year old who didn’t make the Olympic team in 2012 but has been training ever since and has beaten some of Phelps’s past times, and Thiago Pereira; the Brazilian swimmer who beat Phelps in 2012 in the 400 meter individual medley, all of whom are competing in Rio this summer and have been training just as hard to be successful.
These summer games will surely be as exciting as the last, but in a different way. In 2012 everyone was cheering for Phelps due to it being his last competition, this year it’s supposed to be his comeback year.