While Michael Phelps is adamant that this is his last Olympic games, we've seen athletes change their minds before—see Brett Favre and Dwight Howard. In fact, Phelps was debating retirement back in 2009 after his marijuana pipe incident, but decided to come back.
Let's take a look at why Phelps will be swimming at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
He Will Still Be in His Prime
Granted, at 31, he will be at the tail end of his prime. However, Phelps will likely still be one of the top swimmers in the world and would still be able to compete at an Olympic level.
There are three swimmers on the U.S. team in London who are at least 30 years old. While Phelps has stated he doesn't want to swim past the age of 30, he will be past that mark by the slimmest of margins: just one year.
Not competing in 2016 would be wasting an opportunity to win even more Olympic medals and make his medal-count record even more unreachable.
Phelps Doesn't Have to Train Year-Round
Phelps has repeatedly said that the desire to train wasn't there for him until late in the training process prior to London. In fact, he only really trained for nine months for the London Games—proving that he doesn't need to train year-round for the three years in between.
If he could get in the pool every now and then for the three down years, then train hard for part of the last year, Phelps could conceivably do the same thing he's done in London.
His Mother's Influence
Phelps' mother, Debbie Phelps, has stated she wants her son to compete in Rio de Janeiro—partly because she wants to travel there. Nevertheless, a mother's influence cannot be underestimated.
She has three years to change her son's mind and, if she's persistent enough, may just do it.
Mother knows best—right?
Increasing His Medal Record
Phelps won gold in the 100-meter butterfly today, pushing his total medal count to 21 and gold-medal count to 17—both are records.
If Phelps were to swim in Rio, he would most likely compete in four, possibly five events: the 200-meter and 100-meter butterfly, the 4x100 and 4x200 relay and possibly the 200-meter individual medley—all of which he could medal and possibly win gold in.
He has won the 100 fly and 200 individual medley at a record three consecutive Olympics. As remarkable as that feat is, winning those events in four consecutive Olympics would be astounding, for swimmer's careers rarely stretch over four Olympics.
Phelps' medal record, at this point, is still reachable. However, if he were to add three to five more medals, that may put it out of reach for good.
Ryan Lochte Will Be There
Ever since 2004 in Athens, Lochte has been Phelps' rival—at least in the pool. Now that Lochte has said he plans to compete in Rio de Janeiro, the competitor inside Phelps may be enticed to follow him there.
As nonchalant as Phelps acts about his competitive relationship with Lochte, you know Phelps was ticked when Lochte beat him in the 400 individual medley to start the London Games. And you saw him achieve revenge when he beat Lochte in the 200 individual medley yesterday.
Phelps probably wasn't too happy about all the hype that Lochte was getting heading into these Olympics—as if people just forgot what Phelps did in Beijing. Lochte will once again be the headline going into Rio, and that may not sit well with Phelps.
Perhaps I'm overestimating Phelps' competitive nature, but this guy has been competing in the Olympics since he was 15 years old. As burned out as he may claim to be, he's a swimmer—that's just what he does.
Nobody truly knows what Phelps will do come 2016, but one thing is for sure: the Games would be better with Phelps. He's a global icon in swimming, and, while he doesn't owe anything to anybody, it would be a shame to see him not compete when he still has the ability to win.