Phelps Ends Swimming Retirement Two Years Before Rio Olympics

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 medalist.

Phelps, 28, is scheduled to take part in the April 24-26 Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona, USA Swimming said yesterday on its website.

Phelps announced his retirement from swimming after the 2012 London Olympics, where he won six medals, including four golds, to bring his career total to a record 22. His decision to swim competitively again comes two years before the 2016 Games in Rio, when Phelps 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.”

Peter Carlisle of Octagon, Phelps’ agent, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment on whether the swimmer planned to compete in his fifth Olympic Games in two years in Brazil.

Endorsers’ Thinking

Burton, who served as chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 2008 Games in Beijing, said that while yesterday’s announcement was best for brands such as Subway Restaurants that are already associated with Phelps, new endorsers will likely want to know his plans for the 2016 Games.

“If his answer is, ’I can’t guarantee anything because I have to win at the trials, but my intention is to be there,’ endorsers will then have to bet on that potential,” he said.

A Maryland native, Phelps won six golds and two bronze medals at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and captured a single-games record eight gold medals four years later in Beijing.

Prior to his retirement, Phelps was earning about $7 million a year in endorsements from companies including Visa Inc., Subway and Procter & Gamble Co., according to Forbes Magazine.

Phelps returned to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool more than nine months ago and has undergone out-of-competition testing, USADA said in an e-mail.

Other scheduled participants at the Arena Grand Prix include Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky.

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