[REAL VERSION] London 2012

REAL VERSION

Full coverage on NBC through August 12

Janet Evans' Olympic Comeback

Evans passed the flame to Muhammad Ali at the 1996 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Atlanta

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sixteen years since Janet Evans competed in the Olympics, the 40-year-old mother of two has qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials. But getting to London in 2012 isn't her only hope.

    Janet Evans has been to three Olympic Games, she has five medals -- four of them gold -- and she's returning to the pool in hopes of capturing Olympic glory again in London.

    "My coach and I don't call it a comeback, we call it a 'project,'" Evans said, who announced her return to competition in June 2011. "Because every day it evolves and changes and it's kind of living and breathing and we kind of roll with it."

    Evans is now 40 years old, and the mother of two young children. She hasn't been to the Olympics in 16 years.

    "As a mom of two and a 40-year-old, there were things I wanted to do in my life," Evans said. "I was able to get to a point where my husband could help me more with the kids and we could make our schedules work and it was kind of like, 'why not?'"

    Evans has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials. She may be competing against women half her age, but that hasn't prevented her from maintaining a grueling training schedule, which includes swimming 10 miles a day.

    "I have moments that it's very difficult and my body hurts probably more than it did obviously when I was 18, 19, 20," Evans said. "But there are also days where I feel pretty good and I'm shocked at the things my body allows me to do."

    Evans says she has already noticed one advantage that comes with age. "I am definitely stronger mentally and I think that would be one advantage that I have and I think that's an advantage that older competitors have," she said.

    Evans gets up by 4:30 a.m., hits the pool for her morning workout, heads home to spend the rest of her afternoon with her family and then goes back to the pool for a late afternoon workout, but makes it home in time for dinner and to put her children to bed.

    "Although I am basically working full-time I am still able to be home with my family a lot and that was the most important thing to me to be able to strike a balance where I could feel like I was doing something for me and also obviously be the mom and wife that I really want and need to be," she said.

    Evans said she was prepared for criticism from other parents.

    "I kind of went into this thinking there'd be a lot of haters, you know? And I think it took a lot of courage to realize that that was going to happen and people were going to question why, and tell me to be home with my children, and tell me I was crazy. And for the most part it hasn't happened," said Evans.

    For Evans, the 'project' is more than just a bid for the Olympics.

    "Look, I hope it inspires moms to maybe go out and get fit or run a triathlon or do something outside the sporting world," she said. "But maybe just find some time for themselves every day to do something that they dream of and really want to do."

    She's taking it one day at a time, enjoying the moment.

    "I'm full-well prepared for this to end before London. That's OK. For me, it's just been a really rewarding personal journey," she said. "No one's going to take away my gold medals or my world records because I qualified for Olympics trials at 40 and didn't make the team."

    Evans will find out if she packs her bags for London at the U.S. Olympic Trials at the end of June.