Michael Phelps hints at return for 2016 Olympics

Former Olympic and world swimming champion Michael Phelps of the US attends the unveiling of a mosaic installed in his honour at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, July 28, 2013 .(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Former Olympic and world swimming champion Michael Phelps of the US attends the unveiling of a mosaic installed in his honour at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, July 28, 2013 .(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain — When Michael Phelps walked away from swimming after the London Olympics, he was adamant: His career was over.

Now, it sounds like he’s not so sure.

While saying he has never been happier — and certainly doesn’t miss the grind of what it took to become the winningest athlete in Olympic history — Phelps left the door open to change his mind before the 2016 Rio Games.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” he said Monday. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

In Barcelona for the world swimming championships, Phelps spoke to The Associated Press and other media organizations in a series of one-on-one interviews. When asked by the AP, yes or no, whether he’ll compete at the next Olympics, Phelps coyly said he hasn’t planned that far ahead.

That’s a striking change from his comments before and immediately after the London Games, when he insisted his retirement was set in stone and it had always been his goal to quit swimming before he turned 30.

Phelps will be 31 at the time of the opening ceremony for the Rio Games.

“I don’t know. We’re in 2013,” he said. “There’s nothing in the works right now.”

There’s plenty of time for a comeback. Phelps likely would want to begin training before the end of the year, which would allow him to get into peak condition leading up to the next world championships in 2015, an important stepping stone for the Olympics.

Phelps certainly isn’t training at the moment. He jammed the small toe of his right foot on the edge of a sofa at home in Baltimore and aggravated the injury when he played in a golf tournament at Lake Tahoe.

He’s wearing a boot cast on his foot while in Barcelona to cope with a small stress fracture.

“I have no plans to do anything,” Phelps said. “I love what I’m doing now. I’m able to travel so much, play golf. I’m on my schedule. I’ve never been able to have that.”