Yesterday’s news included an item that quickened the pulses of quite a few swim fans–and probably USA Swimming honcho’s too. Michael Phelps is returning to competitive swimming. Mind you, there was no mention of Rio 2016, only that he ‘ll race at an Arena Grand Prix meet in Mesa Arizona next week.
In the article Phelps is Back–and at His Age, Why Not New York Times writer Christopher Clary noted that Phelps, at 28, is younger than Lebron James, and should he swim in Rio will be only 31, younger than Roger Federer is now.
But as Clary also noted “In the pool, he has very little, if anything, left to prove, which might not be best in a sport where the training is arduous and repetitive enough to require extreme motivation.”
Phelps earned enough from the 22 Olympic medals he already owns that–barring bad investments (he’s a part owner of Meadowbrook Aquatic Club in Baltimore, the facility where he trains) he should be able to live comfortably the rest of his days.
So what’s his motivation? I suspect it’s mainly his undimmed competitive drive. While a few additional Olympic medals would do relatively little to enhance the luster of the legacy he’s already created, it’s probably harder than he realized it would be to sit on the sidelines and watch others lead the world rankings with times he may feel he could match even without ‘arduous and repetitive training.’
If do hope that Phelps finds that motivation, and that, rather than extreme, it’s the satisfaction any of us can gain from doing something we love at the highest level possible each time we practice. If he does, the results of any races he swims will almost be besides the point.