This invitational will mark the beginning of the end for Phelps, who recently said he wants to retire and is "sick of the water" when talking about his future in swimming. News of his post-London retirement should not come as a surprise—the star swimmer has been on the record about his retirement for years—but the end is nigh.
It will be interesting to watch the dichotomy between his desire to retire and his competitive spirit in play. It is one thing to plan your retirement, but it is an entirely different matter when your will to compete wanes. If you thought Phelps was being melodramatic when he told Rick Reilly he was weary of swimming, just look at the past few years.
The evidence lies in recent competition.
Ryan Lochte is Phelps' fiercest American rival, gaining a leg up on the superstar in recent years. Lochte captured six gold medals at the 2010 World Championships, and he outperformed Phelps at last year's Grand Prix events.
Is Phelps merely lying in wait, or has Lochte surpassed him? Will he bring his killer instinct to the 2012 Games? Winning 11 of 15 Grand Prix events without losing to Lochte this year might be your answer. The Longhorn Invitational might be our first glimpse at the revitalized Phelps.
Perhaps more importantly, it could finally provide an answer for how many events Phelps will enter—as usual, he has been reticent to say just how many swims he plans to make at the trials. While he is certainly unlikely to reprise his grueling effort in Beijing, the more events he swims the merrier for the U.S. Olympic team and their medal count.