Perhaps in an effort to make a full return to swimming in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps is set to once again dive in the pool in less than two weeks.
Phelps will enter to races on Day 2 of the Charlotte Grand Prix on May 16, per Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, via 14News.com:
Phelps has entered the 100-meter butterfly and the 200 freestyle at the Charlotte Grand Prix meet in North Carolina next week, his coach, Bob Bowman, told The Associated Press on Monday night.
With both events on May 16, Bowman can stick to the plan of building up Phelps' endurance while staying away, at least for now, from the grueling, multi-day programs that were once the norm for Phelps. There will be morning preliminaries and evening finals, though the coach said he's not yet certain Phelps will actually compete in both races.
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Trainer Bob Bowman also sent a text message to Newberry, via his report, saying, "We were encouraged by his performances in Mesa and look forward to trying a 200 in Charlotte."
This is the second event Phelps will be competing in since returning from retirement earlier in the season. The 22-time Olympic medalist finished second in Arizona, losing only to Ryan Lochte in the 100-meter butterfly.
Lochte spoke about the return of his rival and how it has changed his approach in the water, via Karen Crouse of The New York Times:
Him leaving, it kind of broke my heart a little. Having Phelps back in the water helps because it’ll go back to me and him pushing each other. Just our history between me and Phelps, any race we go up against each other it’s going to be a battle because we don’t know how to give up. The thing that we do the best is we race.
In North Carolina, Phelps will once again be competing in the 100-meter butterfly, but also the 200 freestyle—two events he has won gold medals in during past Summer Olympics.
It's clear the return to the water means Phelps likely plans to return to the grandest stage in the sport in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. Though he hasn't come out and made the announcement official, Newberry believes his return will conclude with another trip to the Olympics:
Still, it's clear he wouldn't be putting in the work if the 2016 Olympics were not his primary focus. Phelps has already competed in four Summer Games, winning 18 golds and 22 medals overall.
The Grand Prix schedule provides tuneups for the U.S. national championships in August, where spots will be earned for the Pan Pacific Championships later that month and next year's world championships in Kazan, Russia - an important steppingstone for the Olympics.
Phelps will likely continue to show progress at the Charlotte event, and is looking for a win in the pool after finishing second to Lochte in Arizona. With a possible return on the mind, this may be just the second of several competitions Phelps will enter all over the U.S. to get his conditioning back to an Olympic level.
His return to swimming has to be exciting for fans. Phelps has become the face of the sport all over the world, so his presence at the 2016 Games would no doubt provide a major spark for Team USA.
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