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Fourth-Place Medal

Ryan Lochte predicts Michael Phelps will be back in the pool for 2016 Rio Olympics

Jay Busbee
Fourth-Place Medal

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Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. (Getty Images)

This past summer in London, Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time, finishing with 22 career medals and universal acclaim for his achievements. So when he said he'd retired from Olympic competition after London, he didn't waver. Like Alexander the Great, he had no more worlds left to conquer.

Or so we assumed. Ryan Lochte, Phelps' heir apparent, believes Phelps might not be done after all. "The sport will miss him," Lochte said in advance of the World Short Course championships in Istanbul. "He is one of my favorite rivals, and I will miss him. But I think he will come back. When you do something for so long every day ... he's still young. I think he will be back for Rio. We'll see. He'll miss the sport.''

[Related: Michael Phelps says U.S. swim team bonded over pop song]

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Phelps has insisted he wants to live a "normal" life, or what passes for one after spending four Olympics as one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. But as Michael Jordan, Brett Favre and pretty much every boxer who ever fought can tell you, walking away from the cheers is no easy task.

Thing is, the pool waits for no one, not even Phelps. While he was impressive in London, he wasn't as dominant as he'd been in past years. And both motivation and ability for the relentless training necessary to beat the best wanes over time. Phelps has always insisted he was done, but as USA Today notes, he's six months younger than LeBron James. Granted, swimming and basketball require two different types of physical and mental dedication, but it's not out of the question for Phelps to take a shot at qualifying for Rio.

We shall wait and see. Anyone want to bet on his return?

[Tip of the swim cap to Larry Brown Sports]

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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