|Why not come back? I'm faster.|
Here's how it goes: typically each generation of swimmers in had a new one nipping on their toes in almost no time. For instance, Tom Dolan was the best IMer in the world at age 25, but just two years later Phelps broke his world record and never looked back. Dolan retired confident that the torch had been passed. Now, you could argue that current stars Lochte and Phelps do have a younger guy to pass too- that's Tyler Clary. But some of these other comebacks highlight areas where that just didn't happen.
The 100 breaststroke is a great example. I think its reasonable to say had there been a young guy coming up the ranks in the last decade who had been right on top of Hansen or breaking his records up the line, he wouldn't be making an Olympic comeback at 30. But if you're Brendan Hansen looking at this field of US breaststrokers, you still feel like you could beat all of them. Don't you feel like Ed Moses feels the same? He was long retired but then noticed that if he could return to form he has a legitimate chance at making the team. Unfortunately for Ed he is still a ways off.
The theory stretches to more events. How man years in the last 11 has Dara Torres surveyed the state of US women's sprinting and realized that she could be the best? It may be the best reason she continues to stick around- because she's good enough. Do you feel like Aaron Peirsol looks at the backstroke swims from this summer and thinks "Man, there is no way I can hang with our young guys!"?. I think he absolutely doesn't! Do you think Ian Crocker notices that the 100 fly winning time this summer was still slower than his 50.40 world record swim and wonders if he should make a comeback too?
The comeback mentality filters even to the not quite as great swimmers. It will also be another thing for me to watch as this meet progresses.