During the 2010 season, Michael Phelps disappointed a number of fans when he competed in only a single Grand Prix event. He started off the 2010-2011 series with a last-second scratch from the Minnesota short course meet in November, which led many to shake their heads and wonder when, if ever, he was going to return to serious training and competition. Sometime in December of 2010(perhaps while watching Ryan Lochte light up Dubai), Phelps found his motivation again, and decided that it was time to attack the pool again.
Phelps has now swum two of the three Grand Prix meets since the calendar rolled, and all indications are that he plans to finish out the 3 remaining meets in the lead-up to the Shanghai World Championships. This means that he will compete in 5 out of the 7 meets this season, which is the most he’s swum in since he won the 2007-2008 series.
While attendance at these last 3 meets is no big surprise for a “dedicated-Phelps,” it is a strong indicator that he is, in fact, back in the game with both feet, so-to-speak.
Next weekend’s Eric Namesnik Michigan Grand Prix will be swum in Ann Arbor, where Phelps spent the majority of his time training in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. The Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix at the beginning of April is year-in and year-out the biggest and most flamboyant of the Grand Prix meets, and even has it’s own set of prize money, which in turn attracts a ton of top competition. It also receives the most exposure among the Grand Prixs, which makes it an important event for Phelps’ sponsors, and it is the one meet that he’s attended religiously the past few seasons.
The final meet of the season, the Santa Clara International, is one of the final major meets in the lead-up to the World Championships. It usually attracts a ton of international competition, as everyone looks to test their fitness prior to heading East to Shanghai.
The point is, yes, it’s easy to say that all 3 of these meets are no-brainers for the man who has dominated the swimming headlines for the better part of a decade, but he could have easily skipped any of them.