Michael Phelps' training for the 2012 Olympic Games in London has been subpar at best. His training was sporadic, and he even skipped practices after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. And this lackluster effort between Olympic Games will hurt Phelps this year, as seen by his recent struggles.
As much as I would love to see Phelps weighed down by his 10 gold medals on a podium after the Games, the far more likely scenario is that he will be weighed down in the pool by his poor training.
The greatest swimmer to ever touch the water clearly wants out. He has said again and again that he is tired of swimming and that he is going to retire after the London Games.
After watching his dominant performances at the Beijing Games in 2008, it was nothing short of shocking to see this interview with 60 Minutes, during which Phelps chronicled his exploits, and Anderson Cooper called it "the most difficult period of his career."
This lethargic attitude has been seen during the last few years, during which he "blatantly ignored his coach's training plan" (per Amy Shipley, Washington Post). He would skip practices to play rounds of golf and would not contact his coach, Bob Bowman, for weeks.
Perhaps his lowest moment during training came when he and a few friends took off for Las Vegas (per NBC Olympics):
"Phelps said he skipped a major practice a week before 2010 Nationals and went to Las Vegas with his friends, a trip he joked that was brought on by watching 'The Hangover.'"
This plight of Phelps' was a slap in the face for fans across the globe. Seeing such a gifted athlete wrestling with the sport that gave him such a blessed life was shocking, and this was possibly the first time that fans pitied a 14-time gold medalist.
These antics, including his reported use of a marijuana pipe, put Phelps' career in jeopardy. Last year, Bowman was "[very worried] that we had so far to come that we couldn't get back."
Phelps, his coach and the media are trying to put these fears to rest, saying that Phelps is back.
However, I'm not so sure.
In early May, Phelps struggled at the Charlotte Grand Prix. He finished second in the 200-meter butterfly behind China's Wu Peng with a time of one minute, 56.87 seconds, which was more than five seconds slower than his world record, which he set at the 2009 world championships in Rome.
He also finished second in the 200-meter freestyle in Charlotte.
While two second-place finishes would have been spectacular for any other swimmer in the world, Phelps is the closest thing to a hybrid between a human and a fish you will ever see, and these are unacceptable races for an athlete of his caliber.
In his most recent competition in Austin, he improved slightly but not enough to change the fact that he is not even close to where he could have been if he had trained hard since 2008.
Phelps is trying to qualify for seven individual and three relay events in the London Games. The best-case scenario for him would be to leave London with 10 more gold medals, which would increase his total to a ridiculous 24 golds.
However, this won't be the case.
After his lackadaisical training he will not be ready to win all 10 events (he might not even qualify for all 10).
The Yahoo article that reports that he will be attempting to qualify for 10 events even says that it may be an "overwhelming challenge for Phelps." There is clearly doubt that he will qualify for all 10, let alone win the gold in each.
While Phelps could have added to his gold medal total and raised it to 24, if he had trained as hard as he should have during the four years between Beijing and London he no longer has that opportunity.