(Reuters) - Michael Phelps will not compete at the world championships but the 18-time gold medalist will attempt to add to his Olympic legacy by competing at next year’s Rio Games.
Since coming out of retirement two years ago there had been widespread speculation Phelps, considered the greatest swimmer of all-time, was targeting a comeback at Rio although the 29-year-old American did not confirm that until Wednesday.
“You guys heard it here first,” Phelps said in a story on the BBC website. “I am looking forward to next year. I don’t think it’s too hard to really realize why I came back.”
Phelps returns to competition this week at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa, Arizona, after serving a six-month suspension imposed by USA Swimming for a drunk driving conviction.
He was also banned from the world championships in Kazan as part of the punishment, though last month USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said they may consider including him in the team, but they have since closed that door.
“It’s obviously very challenging and for me to not be able to compete at world championships,” Phelps said in an earlier story on USA Today’s website.
“I will be in full support of everything they do over there, and I wish them all the luck in Kazan.”
Phelps will launch his latest comeback on Thursday when he races in the 100-metres butterfly.
He is entered in a total of five events including the 100 backstroke and 400 freestyle on Friday and 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle on Saturday.
The meet has attracted some of the top U.S. swimmers, including Phelps’s chief rival Ryan Lochte, who is entered in the same five events.
It will be familiar surroundings for Phelps, who ended his two-year retirement in 2014 at Mesa, which sparked the speculation he was considering an Olympics comeback.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury