• Swimming

Phelps coach casts doubt over comeback

Tom Pilcher
November 27, 2013
The most decorated Olympian in history is still some way off a competitive return, according to his long-time coach © PA Photos

Michael Phelps' coach Bob Bowman says a return to high-level competition by the most decorated Olympian ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games is unlikely.

News that Phelps, 28, rejoined the US Anti-Doping Agency's drug-testing programme surfaced earlier this month to start rumours that the 18-time gold medallist might get back in the pool for a fifth Olympics.

World swimming body FINA requires athletes to be tested for a minimum of nine months before competing, however Bowman said it was just so Phelps could keep his options open.

"I don't know about that [a return to competition], he's doing some training," Bowman told ESPN at UK Sport's annual World Class Performance Conference in Manchester.

"I'd hate to have him get back into swimming and be in really good shape and at the end of next summer say 'I think I'd like to compete' and then have to wait [another] nine months.

"That's why he got on the list again, so that he could have the option if he wanted to. I think it remains to be seen whether he'll want to or not."

Counting against a comeback is the fact that even Phelps is taken aback by how far out of shape he had fallen since the London 2012 games, where he won four gold medals and two silvers.

Bowman, who resumed coaching this year after a post-London 2012 Games break having worked with Phelps from the age of 11, said the swimmer was a long way off his past form and physique.

"I think he's been surprised himself how far out of shape he was when he got back. He was 25 pounds heavier. I think he lost a lot of strength," said Bowman, who also had a sabbatical from swimming following the London Games.

"It's been quite good because I've had a chance to clear my head and decide what I wanted to do going forward. I realised I really loved the coaching.

"Since I've come back, there's been a big ballyhoo about Michael doing some swimming and he's been there some, but for the most part I was able to coach a good group of athletes without him there, for the first time in 16 years.

"I liked it just as much as when he was there. There's a passion I have for this sport and helping young people and that's been renewed in the past year."

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