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Phelps’ return to swimming is hardly unexpected

Sam Isdale/Sports Columnist

Sam Isdale/Sports Columnist

When Michael Phelps told the world he was retiring from swimming back in 2012, I shook my head. Not because I thought he needed to continue his career or that I was sad to hear the news, but I knew Phelps wouldn’t “quit.” With so much determination, hustle and competitiveness in one person’s bones, how could he just quit? My hard-headed beliefs appeared to be right, as Phelps appeared at the USA Swimming Grand Prix meet at Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Ariz., last Friday.

Although his return was rather discreet, Phelps dove back into competition when he said he wouldn’t. Maybe he’ll say he has no plan to train for the next Olympics, but he did make a return. So why does Phelps have a change of heart now? Is it because he knows his talent is impeccable? Well he suggests an awfully obvious reason for his return in that he was missing the sport that has been a huge part of his entire life. That is exactly the reason I said he wouldn’t quit.

After swimming consumes so much of one’s life, it’s easy to accept that it can burn people out, but it’s harder to understand how it could be so easy to just let it go. He’s a 22-time Olympic medalist. That fact alone indicates his desire for competitiveness. He wasn’t satisfied with winning just one gold medal, so he continued his Olympic career.

“Just being able to get back into that mentality of competition, that’s one thing I really loved the most about it when I was really competing in 2012 and throughout my career,” Phelps told ESPN.

Phelps claims he’s just getting his feet wet again, although this year he swam the fourth-fastest time in the world. He wanted to get back into the sport and the competition for his own wishes.

“I’m doing this because I want to. Nobody is forcing me to do this or that,” he told reporters during the USA Swimming Grand Prix meet.

Taking a break is something that I understand, but I get agitated when athletes say they are retiring. When I think of someone retiring, I don’t think they will be coming back. If an athlete absolutely knows he or she isn’t returning to a sport or cannot return to a sport for whatever reason, then I see no problem with using the word retiring. If an athlete has the slightest feeling he or she may return to the sport again, why do they say they are leaving the sport? Phelps probably had a pretty good idea that he would eventually come back to swimming. I had a pretty good feeling as well. But Phelps stands by his words and says that it’s not for the glory or the fame, only himself.

“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,” he explained to ESPN. “I’m doing this because … I enjoy being in the pool and I enjoy being in the sport of swimming.”

I can’t honestly say that I believe he isn’t doing it for any other reason than himself, but I also can’t say that I believe he’ll head to the next Olympic games. All I am sure of is that Phelps is one heck of a competitor and I’m not surprised to see him back in the pool. By this summer he said he will have to be ready if he plans to compete at his highest level in the near future.

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