USA Swimming Confirms Michael Phelps’ Comeback at Mesa Grand Prix

  109 Braden Keith | April 14th, 2014 | Arena Pro Swim Series, National, News

In a press release today announcing the headliners for the Mesa Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona from April 24th-26th, USA Swimming has confirmed the intent of Michael Phelps return to competition, to swim his first meet since the 2012 Olympics.

This had been the rumored comeback meet for the last couple of months (after another opportunity to race sooner fell through), as Mel Stewart has hinted at several times here on SwimSwam, but this release is the first confirmation by USA Swimming or anybody on-the-record that the comeback is happening.

There are no psych sheets yet to know exactly what Phelps is swimming, but his coach Bob Bowman implied recently in a USA Today article that it will be a light schedule, and will test his speed more than his endurance. A good guess would be something like a 50 free/100 free/100 fly schedule.

Among others expected at the meet include Ryan LochteKatie LedeckyMatt GreversCaitlin LeverenzKevin CordesMargo GeerNathan AdrianElizabeth BeiselTyler ClaryNatalie CoughlinConor DwyerAnthony Ervin, Jimmy Feigen, and Allison Schmitt.

That will make this the deepest Grand Prix field that we’ve seen so far this season. All of the biggest names are in attendance, as are some local stars like defending CSCAA NCAA Swimmer of the Year Kevin Cordes, and Arizona native Caitlin Leverenz.

Phelps will grab almost all of the attention at this meet, but there will be some other good stories here. For Coughlin, it will be her first meet since the Austin Grand Prix in January.

This meet will also be a better test for Ryan Lochte’s comeback from a knee injury. Bad weather cost him all but the final day of the Orlando Grand Prix, and even that, he admitted, might have been too soon.

In This Story


  1. Hippo-Ki says:

    Go Michael Phelps! 🙂

  2. Swimmom says:

    Really some of your comments….. WTG Michael…. would love to see you swim, anywhere! Years and years spent in the pool, you deserve to have some fun. Grand Prix

  3. Who’s glad he planned this trip out to Mesa months ago? This guy!

  4. bobo gigi says:

    Hopefully the USA swimming website will not explode on Thursday 24 for the first race of MP.
    There’s a big risk if all swimming fans from all over the world connect at the same time to watch the live streaming. :mrgreen:

    And now Mesa is known everywhere in the world! 😆
    Good publicity for this town.

  5. KeithM says:

    How fortuitous that Lochte will also be swimming in Mesa. He’ll be able to collect his bet winnings from Michael!

  6. aswimfan says:

    I definitely think that the one year off swimming last year will prove to be a very good thing for Phelps in 2016. The short break while keeping his fitness rejuvenate him and recharge his fire.

  7. TheTroubleWithX says:

    I wonder if Phelps and Lochte will both swim the final of the 100 free at Summer Nationals this year in their quest to be on the 4×100 free. If so, that’s going to make it a very crowded field. Those two, plus the other returners from finals last summer (Adrian, Ervin, Feigen, Grevers, Dwyer, Dressel), plus Cullen Jones, and you already have nine even before Jack Conger, who C final time would’ve placed 1st in the B final and and ahead of Dressel in the A final. All that to say, there’s at least ten swimmers with a very legit shot of making finals in the 100 free this summer. That’s going to be a great race to watch.

  8. Hippo-ki says:

    and…. CRUSH ’em Phelps

  9. Hippo-ki says:

    indeed great news!
    if anyone can fourpeat, it’s MICHAEL PHELPS. nuff said.
    Welcome back MP!!! 😀

    • aswimfan says:

      Well no one else has ever had the chance to fourpeat 🙂

      However, Dawn Fraser would have surely done it in 1968 had the Australian Olympics Committee not be so dumb and dinosaurs and banned her from competing.

      • Rafael says:

        And he become the first to 3-peat because of the Dumb USRR X USA rivalry that stopped Salkinov from doing it..

        • Hippo-Ki says:

          I believe Phelps has a chance to 4-peat (if he really wanted it) and this is w/out any luck involved man. Michael Phelps = anything is possible

  10. Durham says:

    unsurprising news….

  11. Greg Tucker says:

    Wish he was training #USRPT.

    • coacherik says:

      I could see a hybrid or a transition to it after this first series of meets and time getting back into a personally acceptable level of race shape.

      Coach Bowman will always build the cup before he fills it, but I can’t imagine it not being an option for Phelps. It seems to be passing the smell test for at least a proven Olympian like Josh Davis. He is at a stage in his career where the volume he does put has got to be hyper-focused.

    • Sven says:

      Hey man, I can’t really think of a nice way to say this so I’ll leave it to my friend Gandalf the White: except replace the facebook emblem with one from swimswam.

      Srsly tho, as cool as that would be, I think Bowman is a bit too deeply entrenched in the “you have to build an aerobic base or you won’t be fast” camp. Although, from what we’ve seen of NBAC’s workouts, there does seem to be an awful lot of quality work once you’ve done the grind. It would have been cool if they had let him totally detrain and then tried to build him back up with a program centered around race pace, just to see what would happen.

  12. completelyconquered says:

    If this was theonion, the title of this article would read, Michael Phelps comes out of retirement to deny Michael Andrew Olympic spot.

  13. john26 says:

    I don’t know what to expect from him at this meet, or this year. But judging from Bowman’s attitude, Phelps has definitely been training more in 2014 than 2010, otherwise, neither Bowman nor Phelps would want to come back. That said, in 2010, Phelps was still riding on the tail of the strong 2008 base that he had.

    If he approaches the times he swam in 2010 in the races he’s likely to race: 100free and 100fly, those are times that will set fear in the eyes of LeClos et al.

    • aswimfan says:

      I kinda agree with you in that Phelps is generally in better shape than most people realize.

      In fact, I may be mocked for saying this:
      But I think this route (announces retirement – spent a year playing golf while staying very fit – resumed full time training for almost a year – announced the meet of his comeback) was one of the plans, if not the plan, that Bowman and Phelps had devised all the way back in 2012.

      • john26 says:

        Let’s not forget that if Phelps had a good race, he could’ve won the 100fly final in London 0.6 or more. LeClos has cut the difference, but Phelps must’ve sacrificed some brute strength and speed for that 400IM. Phelps has ONLY taken as much time out as Kitajima did after 2008, and they’re are approximately the same age at that point in the cycle. That said, I feel that the real challenge is to peak in 2016, than it is to get back to his physical peak (at least for his shorter events)

  14. bobo gigi says:

    Except Missy and a few others, most of the US stars will be in Mesa! 😎

  15. Jiggs says:

    Yeah, looking forward to seeing USA put up some top swims in the top five rankings for this year aside from Adrian, Ledecky (2x) & Hardy.

  16. Sven says:

    Also, I’m not sure where Grevers is at right now, racing-wise, but it would be nice to see a response to Irie’s absurd 100 back this past weekend. Same with Clary/Lochte in the 200.


      I would ask the same question about Thoman ! let’s not forget he was the silver medal behind Grevers in London . He is damn fast since he came back after few months of restoring himself . He still trains at Swim Mac . If a great 100 back has to come from somoene , it has to come from Thoman this year . I still beleive Grevers is on a great roll of great racing this year as well .
      We can’t forget that Plummer is around and surely enough , Murphy will temps LC 100 back at trials this june . Usa will still be top ranked in 100 and 200 back this year .

  17. Sven says:

    Couple things:

    1- I think more people expected this than the opposite, but the majority aren’t posting about it because it seems obvious to them.

    2- Bowman is definitely downplaying MP’s fitness. I’m sure they’re rather let his swimming do the talking than risk raising expectations higher than they already are.

    3- Ready to see some racing between Adrian/Fiegen/Ervin. Should be sick.

  18. Jay says:

    Let’s not forget, at one time he had the second fastest 100 and 200 back times in history. Another option……..

    • aswimfan says:

      True, but that was Phelps in prime physical condition. Fast forward to 2016 when he will be 31 and competing against the likes of Grevers, Murphy, Conger, etc and I don’t think he’ll qualify.

      As Bobo also said above, the best events for him is his most natural stroke: fly.
      At his age, the 200 fly is harder (it was already hard in 2012) and even more so in 2016. 100 fly will be perfect for him.

      I still keep my belief that the ideal events for him to compete in 2016 are 100 fly/free and 200 IM.

      • liquid4TheGOAT says:

        Agreed. He should also swim the 200 free for a chance at a relay spot, and if he doesn’t qualify for the 100 free, he can get a relay spot there too. So he could potentially do up to 3 relays and between one and three individual spots, the 100 fly being a very good bet to make it. That would be a really fun Olympics for him, even if he didn’t make/medal in the 100 free or 2IM, and at his age, I’m sure the keeping-it-fun factor weighs more heavily than it did before.

      • liquid4TheGOAT says:

        And to clarify: That said, I predict he will make the team in the 2IM at least, and have a good shot at a medal. 100 free will be really tight for him to make the team individually, it will really depend more on who else steps up.

  19. Phelps has been training consistently since last fall. He is in better shape than most people realized. Looked fit at the Minnesota GP (in street clothes) last year.

    • john26 says:

      So did Ian Thorpe at the Royal Wedding

      • aswimfan says:

        But Thorpe had already retired for 5 years and living definitely non-athletic life.
        Have you not seen how fat Thorpe was during 2007-2009? and did you not see how super chubby (and I am being generous) Thorpe looked when he formally announced his comeback?

        I believe Phelps exercised and maintained his physique and shape in 2013 and he started training full time early this year. Big difference. In 2016, Phelps chance of swimming near his best (in one or two events) is excellent.

        • liquid4TheGOAT says:

          Exactly. Bowman said he swam through 2013 just to keep his weight down.

          • jman says:

            i think he did more than keep his wt down. bowman has it to
            a science and this was always planned. they had a plan and he has stuck to it with minimal training plan and fun until recently and now back to it. he will be there for 2020 also as there is too much money and fame still to be gained. this is now strictly business at work.

          • JustAGuy says:

            I think Bowman just read “ASwimFan”‘s prediction that Phelps would come back in 2014 and felt compelled to ensure that it came true. If you need proof of “ASwimFan’s” prescience, see some of his comments wherein he cites to his earlier predictions.

  20. Pvdh says:

    I think bowman and phelps are indeed downplaying the kind of shape he is in. This isn’t just a decision made in a whim. He has probably been training pretty hard for a few months now. I’d guess his time are 50free: 22.4, 100 free: 48.7, 100 fly: 52.8

  21. Also: TONY ERVIN does not have to eat his own fins now! Hehehe.

  22. jd14 says:

    Anyone believe Bowman is downplaying how in-shape Phelps actually is? Might he be able to put up a top-15 time in the world in the 100 fly? Just curious :/

  23. AZ swim fan says:

    The Mesa Grand Prix just turned into one of the most popular sporting events this month!

  24. bobo gigi says:

    Butterfly is so natural for him.
    Even not in his best shape, a 53 low looks possible.
    The problem is that he swims the 100 free just before.

    Anyway, I believe we can’t expect something crazy this year.
    We have to be reasonable. 🙂
    It will be hard for most of us but it would be smart to not draw dozens of conclusions just after his first race! :mrgreen:

  25. bobo gigi says:

    According to Eurosport France, Michael would swim the 100 free and 100 fly prelims on day 1 and then, if he qualifies for both finals, would only swim one of the two.
    They write he would swim the 50 free and the 50 fly then. I don’t see a 50 fly event in the schedule. 🙄
    Is he able to swim 2 races of 100 meters in the same session? Even if these are the 100 free and the 100 fly, you must have a minimum of shape to swim decent times in 2 events in the same morning.

  26. Andrew says:

    Not 50 free… Never in the Olympics has he swam this. 200 Im 100 fly and 100 free as well as the 400 free seem more reasonable
    About the 400- have you seen how many NAGs this guy has in similar distance events?

    • bobo gigi says:

      400 free? 😯
      Are you serious? 😆

      • aswimfan says:

        I agree with Bobo.

        400 free??

      • Andrew says:

        Yes. Look at the NAG records. They don’t lie! These are the only ones that he has that are still standing. Now we know he’s scratched the 100… I don’t know why but he has to break some kind of barrier soon. It seems that at the moment he’s swimming out of he’s comfort zone. Like the 50 free

  27. bobo gigi says:

    Congrats to Mel Stewart for giving us the news of the comeback in Mesa already a few weeks ago.

    Then, while I didn’t want to see MP return from retirement, I will be his first supporter if he comes back seriously to prepare Rio.
    I started to be a swimming fan in the early 2000s thanks to Michael Phelps and he will be forever my swimming idol.
    I wish him the best for his comeback.

  28. woods says:

    Time predictions anyone?

    Im going to say 22.9, 50.1, and 53.8

  29. James says:

    If you think about it, we in the swimming community just are not used to the idea of older swimmers making up the bulk of the talent at the elite level. I am going to make a bold prediction…the majority of medalists on the men’s side in Rio will be over 25.

    • Braden Keith says:

      James – without looking at it race-by-race, I’d bet it will be close on 25+, especially if Phelps looks good in his comeback and Lochte can get healthy.

    • aswimfan says:

      If what you mean by “majority” is over half (50%), then I’d agree.

      I wonder what were the age distributions among medalist in the previous olympics. Is there any such data on the web?

      • Steve Nolan says:

        Could piece it together via Wikipedia, I think. Wouldn’t be very fun, but could make for an interesting study.

    • bobo gigi says:

      Nothing is impossible for Bobo Gigi! 😆

      Last olympic games in 2012 for the men

      21/28/25/23/21/28/20/22/20/28/23/28/27/26/22/23/27/24/26/30/23/23/23/27/20/29/28/26/26/17/32/22 in individual.
      26/28/24/28/24/23/24/36/24/23/20/20/26/23/23/24/24/28/28/17/18/20/23/20/24/28/29/27/27/26/28/21 for other medalists only in relay.

      The average age of the medalists on the men’s side in London in individual was 24.6.
      If we add the other medalists in relay, the average age was also 24.6.

      • Braden Keith says:

        Good work, bobo!!

      • aswimfan says:

        Great work!

        Thanks Bobo!

      • liquid4TheGOAT says:

        Thanks, Bobo. If you have a few more hours of spare time, could you do the women’s side too? 😉

        • bobo gigi says:

          I’m sure it will be much younger for the women.
          Let’s see.

          21/26/33/19/22/22/23/23/15/21/17/20/27/22/19/15/25/21/20/24/23/24/20/21/16/21/18/26/20/23 in individual.
          20/18/25/16/27/26/24/28/25/17/26/29/20/21/21/22/22/21/21/17/21/25/21/24/20/18/23/26/25/24 for other medalists only in relay.

          The average age of the medalists on the women’s side in London in individual was 21.6.
          If we add the other medalists in relay, the average age was 22.

          It has taken me 30 minutes.
          I forgot to say I also put the open water in individual.

          • liquidThanksBobo says:

            Bobo, thanks for the stats. 3 yrs difference sounds about right. I remember when the men’s/women’s averages were more like 21/18

      • Boknows34 says:

        If you have even more time Bobo, you could add the month to their yearly age. That would most likely push the average age over 25. 😉

      • Zanna says:

        Who was 17 in then mens individual?

  30. Joel Lin says:

    Phelps has never won an Olympic gold medal with a mustache. Spitz won seven.

    Bulletin board it baby!

    • liquid4TheGOAT says:

      Hahaha love this!! Also, he never won one in a Speedo brief. For the few naysayers who still think Spitz is the GOAT, I say Phelps should grow the stache and wear a speedo in Rio! 😉

  31. Pvdh says:

    4 peat in the 200im

  32. aswimfan says:

    I am probably the least surprised of all.

    I made the prediction already in 2011 in other swimming sites.

    And even in early 2012 I already made my prediction numerous times in this site, such as this one that I made during the US olympics trials:

    go towards the end of the comments where I made my comment:

    “Phelps will unretire in 2014 and swim 100s, at least 100 free/fly.
    Mark my word.”

    Did you all mark my word? 😀

    • Philip Johnson says:

      Yup you did. But I noticed you also said regarding the American women’s 4×100 free team, “The times are not good though, to say the least … USA will not even win a medal in 4×100 free with these … For bronze, USA will have to fight it tooth and nail with Germany.”

      Not only did USA win bronze, but Germany didn’t even final in the 4×100. So I’ll say, you’re 99% right. lol

  33. rjcid says:

    Phelps v. Le Clos 100 fly final… = Epic Battle Royale.

  34. Will we get to see a head-to-head Lochte vs Phelps in the 100 fly?

    More exciting, though, would be repeat head-to-heads of Ledecky and Schmitt in the 200 and (I hope) 400 free.

    No mention of Missy Franklin above, so I assume the Cal Women’s team will still be heads down in the books?

    Any word if the newly selected Canadian summer teams (Commonwealth, etc.) will bring a contingent down? Would love to see some good distance swimming on the men’s side.

  35. mcgillrocks says:

    Amazing. I can’t say after the recent reports I didn’t see this coming, but the shockwaves this sends out all over swimming. Incredible.

  36. Philip Johnson says:

    And the come back begins. Though I don’t he will be as dominate in the individual events, he will be valuable asset on the relays.

  37. Lisa says:

    So excited! Can’t wait to see MP back in action!

  38. I knew it!!! Well alot of us did and hats off to Mel Stewart who called this weeks or months ago.
    Phelps in the 50 free??!! Oh boy!!

    This meet will be one to watch

  39. swimzlazy says:

    This is another “I told you so” moment. A countless number of people said Phelps would do the 200 events at this meet including the 200 IM. And just as I predicted, he is only swimming up to 100 events. Bowman always plays it safe and is overly cautious to protect Phelps and his legacy.

    • coacherik says:

      Leave the “told you so” moments to Bobo.. The site doesn’t have enough room for two of you…

      • aswimfan says:

        immmm… in this particular case, Bobo actually never predicted that Phelps will come back, and in fact he has stated many times he did not want Phelps to unretire.

        I, on the other hand, will say this:

        I told you so!


        You can check out my very straightforward prediction about Phelps unretire during US trials:
        July 1, 2012 at 2:34 am
        Phelps will unretire in 2014 and swim 100s, at least 100 free/fly.
        Mark my word.

        Or during the Olympics:

        July 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm
        This result strengthen further my believe that Phelps will un-retire in 2014.
        Mark my word.

        And many were laughing at me.

        Now: I told you so!

        • Adam says:

          No one cares

          • aswimfan says:

            And I didnt believe for a second that anyone would care about my comments, but apparently you did to a degree that it made you spent energy to respond 🙂

          • Steve Nolan says:

            You didn’t think anyone would care, but you found links anyway?

        • coacherik says:

          It had nothing to do with what Bobo actually predicts so much as it is the thousands of predictions he throws out there. Way to chime in and kinda ruin the joke. You’re a whole barrel fun, aren’t ya….

        • Caffiend says:

          Yup I think we all got it Aswimfan considering you had felt compelled to post an “I told you so” twice here and also in that other MP article!

          Now can we move on to discussing Michael’s comeback, with your permission?

        • JustAGuy says:

          Well, statistically speaking, if you predict enough things over a long enough span of time, one or more of them is bound to come to fruition – eventually. Reminiscent of the infinite monkey theorem vis-a-vis Shakespeare’s collected works.

    • hush says:

      “And just as I predicted, he is only swimming up to 100 events. ”

      We don’t know that yet. He could easily be in the 200 free or 200 IM.

      It may have seemed like public opinion was against you simply because people tend to be more vocal when they disagree, but I think the majority of people in the swim community figured Phelps would be back. Yes, this might be an “I told you so” moment, but you’re telling people who already knew. There might have been some who felt otherwise, but I think to most people, it was a given.

      • swimzlazy says:

        Well you know HUSH: I wish I could start my comment with something along the lines of “Well Bob Bowman and I go way back and he has mentioned…”. However, the most I’ve ever talked to him was in 2009 at the Santa Clara Grand Prix. I suggested that he should really consider having Phelps train for the 400 free in Beijing rather than the 400 IM. Turns out, I may have been right considering his 400 IM performance. Bob could have cared less about my opinion.

        Anyways, I understand he still may swim the 200 IM or 200 Free and my prediction is only speculation at this point. However, I do know that Bowman does play it very safe with Michael after following his career for years. Coming out of retirement is a huge story, and the public will pay attention to his performance at this meet and this is important for his marketability in the build up to Rio. In events like the 100s, the odds are he will not lose by noticeably as much if he were to swim an event like a 200.

        Similar to the importance of this meet and his image, you can go back to 2008 when Phelps broke his wrist and had to be out of the pool for several weeks. When he returned from the injury and competed at the Minnesota Grand Prix, Bowman only entered him in 2 events I believe (100 free, 200 IM). Again, playing it safe here even though one could argue that it may have been more beneficial for Phelps to swim a heavy program to test his endurance in preparation for the heavy workload he would have in Beijing that summer.

        I also think another big factor Bowman considers is the competition Phelps may compete against and how they are currently performing. For instance, Lochte is swimming extremely fast lately based on his most recent meet. If Phelps were to lose against Lochte in his initial comeback, this would take away publicity for Phelps and give more to Lochte. Since the rivalry between the two is such a big storyline, I’m assuming Bowman would only allow Phelps to swim against Lochte in at most one event, which would be no more than a 100 at this point.

        My point here when predicting what Phelps swims in these meets is to FOLLOW THE MONEY and to consider what outcome will most likely provide a boost in his marketability.

  40. jarrettbrown says:

    Well… I can’t say that I didn’t see that one coming.

  41. Khaled says:

    Oh it’s on!

  42. Rafael says:

    50 free?

    Would be surprised if Phelps had the front speed for a sub-22..

    100 fly/100 free/200IM would be more suitable..

    • jman says:

      50 free is probably part of his plan to focus on the shorter events. Its too bad he doesn’t want to put the time in to train the longer events because physiologically you lose speed before endurance with aging. But it comes down to how much time he is going to put in the pool

      • fatsmcgee says:

        “physiologically you lose speed before endurance with aging”

        Is this true with swimming? Seems to me that the most successful swimmers over 30 have been sprinters (Gary Hall Jr gold at 31, Dara Torres medal at 40, Anthony Ervin lifetime bests in mid 30s etc).

        • jman says:

          Those are outliers who were never more than 50 to 100 specialists anyways. Fast twitch fiber losses occur at a much faster rate with aging than slow twitch. In someone with a great endurance background like Phelps, IF he could put in the work, would likely continue to get faster in his 200 and 400 events through his mid-30’s.

          • Steve Nolan says:

            But recovery time gets longer with aging too, no? Anecdotally, guys always say they just can’t keep doing as much yardage or w/e as they get older. (Like, Lochte moving to SwimMAC.)

            Obviously this would be one hell of an in-depth study, but my knee-jerk reaction is that the loss of certain muscle fibers is outweighed by other changes that makes it harder to keep training for slightly longer events.

      • KeithM says:

        Really? I’ve always believed it was diametrically the opposite of this. Therese Alshammar, Alison Sheppard, Mark Foster, Lars Frolander, etc are more examples. Distance swimmers seem to lose their form earlier and tend to retire earlier. That’s why the Natalie Coughlin’s can go much farther in terms of Olympic cycles over their career than can the Janet Evans’s of the swimming world.

    • Braden Keith says:

      Rafael – in the long-term, I think that’s correct. However, if we believe Bowman that this is just a “feet wet, dip your toes in the pool” sort of thing, then it makes sense.

  43. Hulk Swim says:

    Michael Phelps… SMASH!!!

    • Hulk Swim says:

      Since everyone seems to be chiming in, I suppose I’ll put on my Carnal the Magnificent hat on and give it a whirl.

      I think he’ll swim the 100 Fly and 200 IM individually, and all 3 relays… adding 4 more golds to his collection.

  44. jd14 says:

    How packed do you suppose Mesa will be in two weeks? lol

  45. atarijpb says:

    It’s on like Donkey Kong!

  46. Greg T says:

    If this doesn’t get you excited, nothing will!!!!!

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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