Just coming off his fourth Olympic games, it’s hard to predict what is Michael Phelps going to do next. He said he won’t be swimming again in the Olympics and spend more time with his foundation. But after Beijing it seemed over as well. There are world championships to contest and win in. If he still can, why not?

Think about. Michael Phelps has competed in 24 events over the last 12 years in four different Olympic games. He missed out on a medal only twice – In Sydney 2000, the 200 meters butterfly race, finishing fifth. The winner of that race was Tom Malchow, another American, another University of Michigan athlete, who also won silver in Atlanta. In London, at the age of 27, finishing fourth in the 400 medley. Phelps swam in the 8th lane, and was probably punished for his complacency during the semifinals.

He didn’t repeat his mistakes, and only seemed to grow stronger as the week went on. He did lose to Chad le Clos in the 200 meters butterfly, fading near the end, misjudging the finish. It almost happened to him in the 100 meters as well, but he built up enough of a lead to keep the gold.

At 27, he won six medals, four of them gold, in seven events. If the hunger and the push are still remotely there, what’s stopping him from staying in the pool, at least for the 2013 world championships in Barcelona. If you wondered, Phelps is the most decorated swimmer in the history of the world swimming championships as well. How good? He’s been to six of them, winning 26 gold medals, six silver and one bronze. The nearest to him is Ryan Lochte, who’s of the same age, with a total of 19 medals, 12 of gold. No young gun is even remotely close.

With records that are going to last for eternity (probably, never say never), Phelps has it all. It’s all a matter of how much more he has in him in terms of hunger, desire. It’s great for the world of swimming if he stays. The biggest star to ever jump into the pool will leave a huge hole once he leaves, because there’s never going to be someone as dominant again, or at least it’s impossible to see someone rising to that level in the near future. Why not give us a little bit of what he has, when it’s pretty clear he has plenty left to give?

Image: Source