Phelps Is Back, and at His Age, Why Not?

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Despite vows to the contrary, Michael Phelps, the most prolific medal winner in Olympic history, will return to competitive swimming after all.

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His widely anticipated comeback is set to take place at the Arena Grand Prix from April 24 to 26 in Mesa, Ariz., a move which should make things more frenetic at work for the meet director Erin Shields but should also make life easier at home.

“I have a 6-year-old son who swims who has never quite understood why Michael Phelps would retire when he’s the same age as his mom,” Shields said Monday by telephone.

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Shields is 30. Phelps won’t turn 29 until June, but her son Connor’s point is still well taken.

In a sports world where other great athletes are excelling at far more advanced ages, who is to begrudge Phelps, undeniably the greatest swimmer ever, from taking another plunge?

If Roger Federer can play on quite respectably at age 32, why can’t Phelps head to a fifth Olympics at age 31 and try to add a medal or two (or more) to his uniquely large collection of 22, including 18 gold?

It should be and is totally up to Phelps whether he wants to risk further denting his aura of invincibility. He has tried golf and failed (so far) to make Tiger Woods or Bubba Watson nervous. He presumably has had downtime and free time aplenty.

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