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Phelps Is Back: How Did We Get Here?

By Paul D. Bowker | April 14, 2014, 1:57 p.m. (ET)

Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, is expected to come out of retirement and compete in the Mesa Grand Prix later this month, USA Swimming announced on Monday.

The 28-year-old from Baltimore has been retired from competitive swimming since winning four gold medals and two silver medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Mesa Grand Prix, the fourth event in USA Swimming’s Arena Grand Prix Series, runs April 24-26 at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Phelps made his Olympic debut in 2000, when at age 15 he became the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 1932. The next year, in 2001, he became the youngest male swimmer to break a world record when he won the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. championships at 15 years, nine months.

In 2004, Phelps became one of the biggest stars of the Athens Games when he won six gold medals and two bronze medals. The teenager fell short of the record seven gold medals in one Olympic Games, set by U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz in 1972, but he broke the record with much fanfare four years later at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. There, Phelps won eight gold medals while setting seven world records and an Olympic record.

Phelps retired after the London Games, during which he won his 22nd Olympic medal and passed Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. However, rumors of an inevitable return began before Phelps even stopped swimming, while hints of a comeback began ramping up in recent months.

TeamUSA.org takes a look at the events since the 2012 Games that preceded Monday’s announcement.

August 12, 2012: Phelps wins four gold medals and two silver medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games. He wins the 100-meter butterfly and 200 IM for the third consecutive Games. After his last race, Phelps receives a trophy from FINA President Julio Maglione, recognizing Phelps’ record 22 Olympic swimming medals. In London, Phelps confirms his retirement from competitive swimming.

December 2012: After winning the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year award, Phelps says he is not considering competitive swimming. “I’ve done everything I wanted to do. There’s no point in coming back.”

June 2013: At the U.S. national championships, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte tells USA Today that he believes Phelps will come back for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

July 2013: Asked at the 2013 FINA World Championships about the chances for a comeback, Phelps says: “If anybody would know about me coming back, it would be myself and I haven’t said one thing to anybody about anything.”

Summer 2013: Phelps resumes training on a non-regular basis with longtime coach Bob Bowman but does not yet commit to a full international comeback.

September 2013: United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announces that Phelps passed two doping tests for the period ending Sept. 30, 2013, making him eligible for competition in spring 2014 and also for the 2015 FINA World Championship Trials.

November 2013: Phelps is training on a regular basis at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club with Bowman.

November 16, 2013: Phelps attends the season-opening USA Swimming Grand Prix event in Minneapolis and swims laps in the diving well area.

January 2014: Phelps is training with Bowman and several other Olympic swimmers at the North Shore pool in St. Petersburg, Fla.

March 6, 2014: Phelps plays himself in a cameo appearance on “Suits,” a TV drama on USA Network.

March 24, 2014: Bowman tells the Baltimore Sun that he expects Phelps to begin competing soon. He says Phelps is “definitely in shape.”

April 14, 2014: In a press release, USA Swimming announces that Phelps is among the headliners “expected” to compete at the Mesa Grand Prix in Arizona.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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