The 2016 Olympics could be on the cards for American superstar Michael Phelps, who is set to return to competitive swimming later this month.
The 22-time Olympic medallist plans to swim in the Arena Grand Prix in Arizona from April 24-26.
Phelps will swim the 50- and 100-metre freestyles and 100m butterfly, according to his agent, Drew Johnson.
It’ll be his first competition since he won six medals, including four gold, at the 2012 London Games to become the most decorated Olympian ever.
Is it the next step toward him swimming in the 2016 Rio Olympics?
“We have discussed a long-term plan in general terms, but until he swims in a meet we’re not going to know,” Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman told the Chicago Tribune. “Will he be eighth? Second? Sixteenth?
“I think he certainly won’t be embarrassed swimming in the meet, and I think he will be competitive. The difference is he is doing half the training he used to.”
Phelps was said to be done with competitive swimming after capping the 2012 Olympics with gold in the 400 metre medley relay.
“Through the ups and down of my career, I’ve been able to do everything I’ve wanted to accomplish,” he said in August 2012. “I’ve been able to do things that nobody has ever done, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Since his retirement, rumours of a Phelps return before the 2016 Games have swirled several times.
Bowman said last month that it was “too early to tell” whether Phelps, 28, would try to earn a place on the US team for the 2015 World Championships. The 2014 US Championships this August is the selection meet for the 2015 world team.
“If he swims a meet in the next couple months and does well, he will probably give it a shot,” Bowman said. “But he doesn’t have to do that to have a shot at the 2016 Olympics.”