Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer of all time, will come out of retirement next week, the clearest signal yet that he is getting ready to make an Olympic comeback at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
The American, who has not competed since the 2012 London Games, will headline an April 24-26 meet in Mesa, Arizona, with fellow Olympians Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky, USA Swimming said in a statement on Monday.
Phelps's return to the pool touched off a wave of excitement on social media that added more fuel to speculation that the 28-year-old is planning to compete in Brazil, but his longtime coach did little to fan the flames.
"I don't think anybody knows," Bob Bowman told Reuters in a phone interview when asked if Phelps's return to competitive swimming was a step toward swimming at the 2016 Olympics.
"Certainly he has done some training and gotten into decent physical condition and thought it would be fun to try some racing and we will find out next week how that goes.
"I don't think we can really call it a comeback yet. We'll see how next week goes and take it from there. But (Rio) is a possibility since he decided to consistently train."
Already the most decorated Olympian of all time, Phelps rejoined the US Anti-Doping Agency's drug testing programme last November offering the first hint that he was considering a return to the pool in a bid for more Olympic gold.
World swimming governing body FINA requires athletes to be tested for a minimum of nine months before competing in sanctioned events. Phelps was tested twice in the quarter ended September 30, according to data released by USADA.
"He went through the nine-month probation period from FINA on the drug testing to get back into the competitive pool, so he is that serious about (a comeback)," said Bowman.
"But honestly we don't have any expectations, we don't know where he is, we'll find out a lot more after Mesa and then we can really think about what might happen after that or won't happen after that.
Phelps retired from competitive swimming after winning four gold and two silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics to take his career tally to 22, 18 of which were gold.