The Further Frontiers Of Michael Phelps As He Circumnavigates A 5th Olympic Ring

Michael Phelps - by Peter Bick

A quick wish list of achievements for the final chapter of the Phelps-Bowman partnership, a two-decade-long saga that will never be matched – John Lohn considers the further frontiers in the outer orbit of sporting achievement

Want to read more? Our Basic subscription package allows you to access
to all articles barring specific content for Premium and Business
members. Select which service best suits you. Thank you for your
support of independent journalism and quality coverage of world-class swimming.

Log In Register

A quick wish list of achievements for the final chapter of the Phelps-Bowman partnership, a two-decade-long saga that will never be matched – John Lohn considers the further frontiers in the outer orbit of sporting achievement



As I posted on “the other site”, a sub 50 would be really special in its numerical simplicity and it would be amazing to experience it. No-one else is going to get close for at least 4 or 8 years, I would say.

But I would be in agreement that his best chance is in either the 200 IM or perhaps the 200 fly – remember the Beijing race was completed with leaky goggles.


Michael Phelps story is like an old five stars Hollywood movie. You like it and enjoy it very much and are ready to see it again sometimes. But there is nothing like the first impression excitement. We have already been there, we have already seen.
If Michael wins more gold medals some people will be happy for him. Medal counters will be glad to adjust their statistics and someone will see the manifestation of important life principles. If he fails on this mission then there will be no deep regrets or sadness. What won’t happen in either case there will be no fresh excitement as it was when he was on the rise – he has already proven his place in the history and this upcoming Olympics will add very little to it.
What makes me interested in Michael Phelps life story is his failure to retire and the core of his motivation to come back. I will never believe that Larisa Latynina’s medals haul is what doesn’t make him sleep well. I don’t think that those artificial media created goals mean something important to him that pushes 30 years old elite athlete through the hard training again. He is not that young not to ask questions.

John Lohn

Yozhik, I don’t think Latynina’s record is motivation, but it is there for the taking, so it’s worth discussing in the scheme of his career and vast accomplishments.


“What makes me interested in Michael Phelps life story is his failure to retire and the core of his motivation to come back”

Yozhik, I was perhaps the first person on record (just Google aswimfan and Phelps unretire prediction), and I keep saying that Phelps is quite possibly the most competitive person on earth. Nothing than being no. 1 satisfy him. He tried golf, but it was not as successful, to say the least.

So he must go back to the pool and make himself fulfilled.
Also, there are still a few records to chase.


That’s probably it, ASF. And also the opportunity to earn more professionally. His name is a hot commodity now and from this point of view it is a good move. On the other hand I remember commercial ad where he was saying that swimming is what he is doing all his life. Same black line on the bottom of the pool – hour by hour, day by day, week by week. At some point it becomes too much.

Craig Lord

aswimfan, there are several references in mass media before London 2012 predicting a Phelps comeback, so I hope you got in very early 🙂 Your doping substance reference is unrelated to this story and has been removed. There will be a chance to repeat it at some stage (but it is WADA’s banned list, not FINA’s … FINA is a signatory)


@aswimfan: With all my respect to your foreseeing abilities I don’t care much about that. In most cases it is a lottery guessing with no penalty for being wrong with the prediction. But as a curious person I am interested in the logic and facts that stand behind such predictions. If of course there were such at first place. If you can explain me why the swimmer “who is the most competitive person on the earth” and who still has ” a few records to chase” decided to retire after Olympic games. Decided despite the fact that he was not that successful as he used to be. Decided after getting actually beaten pretty much unexpectedly at his favorite races. if you can explain why those reasons that were so much important three years ago are not factors anymore. Then I will google for your arguments.
From the pragmatic point of view Phelps saw no interest in other competitions than Olympic games and being confident with his abilities took simply a time-out for the year or so. Plus successful comeback after retirement generates higher wave of interest to his persona then in case should he continued to swim in less important meets with showing some signs of decline. Now even if he fails to succeed there would be a lot of positive discussions without any negative consequences to his business. Bingo!


He will never win 8 gold medals again, am more interested in the swimmers who will no doubt surprise


ASF- lots of people predicted Phelps’ retirement wouldn’t last. One of the first was Rowdy Gaines who, at the end of the 2012 games, said Phelps would “get that itch” and want to compete again. When Phelps was asked about that quote, he was annoyed. But it turned out to be true.


Also, there is no way to establish whether MP is the most competitive person on earth. Lots of athletes are competitive. Michael Jordan, for example. Heck- even lance Armstrong is ultra competitive- so much so it drove him to cheating.

Phelps is the best swimmer on earth, and his competitiveness is one reason. I would say his ability to “visualize” is his best attribute.

Bad Anon

If Missy Franklin or Katie Ledecky swim long enough they can both do something close; like winning 5-6 golds at one Olympics. Phelps is a unique athlete in his own right but best believe Missy and Katie will rewrite Olympic history books


Katie fo sho. Missy? She might pull out of her current slump but even if she does, not on the same level as Ledecky or Phelps.


Missy is battling to get one individual gold at the next olympic.. 200 back is probably her only shot for individual gold now..

Also, if a swimmer gets 5 individual golds, his/her results should be on par with Phelps.. Relay golds is much based on the overall depth of the country and some countries does not have depth enough to help the swimmer get there.. Even if Ledecky swims prelims on 4×100 relay, US won´t win gold, so Ledecky would have a “worse” OG compared to Phelps just because she does not have so many relay golds.

Craig Lord

Close, Rafael, but not quite on a par: regardless of the strength of country the fact is that Phelps had to get up and race three relays at world-class fast-as-can pace in the midst of a monster program over 7-8 days, so any par would have to be a swimmer who wins those 5 golds and takes on three relays racing world-class fast-as pace … otherwise the direct comparison (difficult anyway) doesn’t work .. 🙂


Yozhik, I for one feel excited by Phelps’ return to Olympic racing. It doesn’t have the feeling of “seen that already” to me. On the contrary, I wonder what will he do in this new chapter. He is clearly a different man and a different swimmer. He seems to have much more fun now. I also wonder what he can physically do with his 30 year old body. Until last year, I kept saying that he should give up all distances above 100 metres, except the 200 IM. Then he shut me up big time. The thought of what happens next keeps me very excited!


*actually, until earlier this year


Luigi, I understand your feelings completely. That is why I gave MP five stars rating of excitement. My question actually was would it be your excitement as strong as it is now shouldn’t be any retirement interruption in Michael’s swimming career? Are you as much excited about let say Lochte’s races in Rio. Would he get same level of attention should he perform same retirement “trick”? I’m not that cynical as I may sound but until I got explanations for myself that I believe I can say about Phelps zigzag whatever I think it is. And a simple explanations is usually the most correct one.


That’s too difficult a question to answer, Yozhik. I am slightly less excited about Lochte, I admit it, but I don’t know if it’s because of Phelps’ “retirement” or not.
My two cents on why Phelps is coming back: he found a new meaning in swimming, he is now more aware of what he does. He thought swimming had nothing more to give to him (and viceversa) and realized he was wrong. Again, this is just my opinion, and it’s worth as anybody else’s. Only Phelps really knows why. Perhaps not even he.


@ThereaLuigi. That is the best judgement on Phelps that I’ve seen so far. After London where we saw still powerful but kind of declining Phelps he may genuinely thought that it was probably a time to go for many reasons. But I am sure that he didn’t wake up with this decision one nice clear morning. That there were discussions that included coach, sponsors and other advisers. That commercial aspects of his retirement was considered carefully. And conclusion could be something like this: nobody burns bridges, take your time to see what you want, but don’t forget that Olympics is not that far. Luigi, you are absolutely right that we see now definitely different person than even one and a half year ago. The person who isn’t entering competitive swimming automatically just because he did it before for many years

Leave a comment

Post a comment with your SwimVortex Account. Don't have a SwimVortex Account, Sign Up?

(*) Fields are required!