OMAHA, Neb. — It is hardly breaking news to announce that Michael Phelps is not at the 2021 U.S. Olympic swimming trials. He has been gone from his sport since the last Olympics, five years ago in Rio, when he won the final six of his 28 overall medals, ensuring his place in history as the most decorated Olympian of all time.
But here, on the eve of the trials, it sinks in: For the first time since a previous century, for the first time since 1996, the U.S. Olympic trials are being held without the best swimmer to ever dive into a pool.
The last time Phelps was not swimming in the U.S. trials, Bill Clinton was president — in his first term.
Phelps initially competed at the trials as a 15-year-old in 2000, becoming the youngest male swimmer to make a U.S. Olympic team in 68 years. He went on to finish fifth in the 200-meter butterfly in Sydney and was on his way.