Record-breaking Michael Phelps will swim in his first international competition since coming out of retirement at this week’s Pan Pacific Championships.
The 18-time Olympic gold medalist and 22 medals in total, will take his quest for form to Australia’s Gold Coast after he ended this month’s US Championships with a couple of no victories that didn’t leave him discouraged. At the US titles Phelps botched a turn in the 100m free to finish seventh, was out-touched by a fingertip in one of his signature events, the 100m butterfly, and finished sixth in the 100m backstroke.
His recent defeats were the result of mistakes that he has not made since he was a kid, but have all the chances to be fixed. “I have been working on the basics that hopefully make a big improvement,” he told reporters at the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
“At nationals, I missed a couple of walls, jammed a couple of walls – those were the big things that I guess I forgot how to do. They are the mistakes you make when you are 11 or 12 as an age-group swimmer. I probably just haven’t had enough (racing) experience over the last year,” added Phelps. “I hate to lose but I know it is not going to come back overnight. (…) I would rather have those instances now than further down the road with the 2015 world champs and (2016) Olympics coming up.”
However Phelps, 29, made the powerful 60-strong American team for the Gold Coast meet, just four months after ending a 20-month retirement that began after the London Olympics.
According to the American’s coach, Bob Bowman, Phelps believes he can swim faster than ever. “If he didn’t think he had the chance to get faster I don’t think he would have come back,” Bowman said.
Phelps has been asked plenty of times what made him change his mind and continue swimming. “I still want to do it. That’s the easiest way to answer the question. I’ve been away from the sport and I still found I wanted to be in the water. (…) Being able to have a year-and-a-half off, I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself and I still have that competitive side.” The four-day meet at the new Gold Coast Aquatic Centre in Southport is key preparation for next year’s world championships in Kazan, Russia leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.