Phelps' return could boost his earnings
MICHAEL Phelps will swim competitively next week for the first time since he became the most decorated Olympian, a move that could be lucrative for the 18-time gold medallist.
The 28-year-old American is scheduled to take part in the April 24-26 Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona, USA Swimming said on its website on Monday.
His coach, Bob Bowman, said Phelps, who has been training five times a week, would likely concentrate on relays and shorter events, including the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle.
Bowman told the Chicago Tribune: "He looks like he is definitely in shape."
In another interview with USA Today, he said: "We're looking forward to it. I think it'll be great for the sport to have Michael compete again. We really don't have any expectations for what might happen. We just want to have some fun with it and see how it goes."
Phelps had announced his retirement from swimming after the 2012 London Olympics, where he won six medals, including four golds, to take his career total to a record 22. His decision to swim competitively again comes two years before the 2016 Games in Rio, when he will be 31.
Rick Burton, a sports management professor at Syracuse University, said the return could mean an increase in advertising money for Phelps.
"He's done well with the brands he's associated with, and he's clearly performed in the pool," Burton said in a telephone interview. "The chance that he might swim again means that he's not done, and the fact that he's not done means that he's potentially in training for Rio."
A Maryland native, Phelps won six golds and two bronzes at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and captured a single-Games record of eight golds four years later in Beijing.
Prior to his retirement, he was earning about US$7 million (about S$8.8 million) a year in endorsements from companies including Visa, Subway and Procter & Gamble.
Other scheduled participants at the Arena Grand Prix include Olympic champions Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky.