Phelps still the big fish in the pool

Mon Jul 25, 2016 9:05pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Greatness can be hard to define but two words suffice for Olympic swimming - Michael Phelps.

Despite a global cast of world record holders, champions and swim sensations preparing to light up the Rio pool, the greatest of all time will again be the center of attention at his farewell Games.

Phelps, who retired in 2012 before a rethink, may not win the most medals but his fifth Olympics are about more than that.

"I came back because I wanted to," he said at the U.S. trials. "I wanted to do this for me."

The 31-year-old has three individual events (100 meters butterfly, 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley) plus relays with a younger-looking U.S. team that has rung some changes since London.

However big the splash he makes, Phelps is ratings gold as he seeks to add to his record haul of 18 Olympic titles and 22 medals in total.

Winner of the 100 butterfly and 200IM at the past three Olympics, Phelps can become the first swimmer to win the same individual event at four Games in a row.

He is not the oldest U.S. swimmer in Rio, however, with former bad boy and 2000 gold medalist Anthony Ervin back at 35. Ryan Lochte, 31 and an 11 times medalist, will be at his fourth Games.   Continued...

Michael Phelps of the U.S. is seen underwater as he swims in the men's 200m butterfly final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File photo