SBD/April 15, 2014/Olympics

Phelps To Come Out Of Retirement Next Week, Could Compete In '16 Summer Games

Phelps is taking a more measured approach before committing to other competitions
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps is returning to competition next week in a "move that could lead" to him participating in the '16 Rio Games, according to a front-page piece by Marbella & Klingaman of the Baltimore SUN. Phelps will compete in the Arena Grand Prix, held in Mesa, Ariz., April 24-26, in his first competition after retiring following the '12 London Games. Yesterday's announcement "confirmed what many had long suspected -- that Phelps was not quite ready to retire." In November, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency records revealed that Phelps had "re-entered the drug testing pool mandatory for competition, the clearest sign yet that he had not shut the door on a possible return to racing." But while the '16 Rio Games "loom, Team Phelps is taking a more measured approach of seeing how he does in one competition before committing to others." Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach, said, "We have discussed a long-term plan in general terms, but until he swims in a meet, we're not going to know." USA Swimming Sports Communications Manager John Martin said that following the announcement, ticket sales "doubled at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, and requests for media credentials also increased compared to previous meets in the current Grand Prix series" (Baltimore SUN, 4/15). Swimming World magazine's Jeff Commings said of Phelps, "Every swimmer and every athlete knows that the competitive bug never really goes away when you retire. I know he was trying to parlay that to golf and it wasn't really panning out and he saw the global field in swimming wasn't really getting much faster, so why not? He really has nothing to lose at this point" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/14).

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS? CBS Sports Network’s Tony Luftman said there is "great monetary value in Michael Phelps continuing on as a brand.” While he hopes Phelps' return is "because he loves to swim," Leftman said there is probably "some sort of financial reward in this for him that doesn’t exist outside of the pool, endorsement opportunities." CBS Sports’ Allie LaForce said, "If he just stays in the pool, he can make millions and millions more in advertisements and commercials” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 4/14). In DC, Rick Maese notes Phelps while retired was "never far from the public eye, spending his summers on golf courses and fall Sundays" at Ravens games. He remained a "high-earning celebrity endorser, ever-present on commercials and linked with high-profile brands such as Subway and Under Armour" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/15). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser wondered if Phelps' return is a "money grab." Kornheiser: "This is four more years of Subway commercials" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/14).
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