Competing for just the second time since retiring after the 2012
London Olympics, Phelps ticked off all the important boxes he needed
In the morning heats, he tested his stamina by entering two
lung-sapping events - the 200 meters freestyle and 100m butterfly -
then in the evening finals, he tested his speed by winning the 100m
He also qualified for the 200m freestyle final but scratched from
the race after achieving his goal in the heats - qualifying for this
year's U.S. national championships, which double as the selection
event for next year's world titles in Russia.
His time in the 200m free was one minute 51.69 seconds, way below
his best, but 0.2 seconds inside the U.S. qualifying time.
His best times from previous years don't count for future meetings
because they happened outside the qualifying window but Phelps has
now qualified for the nationals in the 100m butterfly and 200m
Both Phelps and his long-time coach Bob Bowman have been coy about
their future plans but Bowman was pleased by what he saw on Friday.
"I thought Michael's 200 free was actually pretty good for the first
one in a couple of years," Bowman told reporters.
"Now we have a real picture of where he is at. I think he could
definitely do better."
Phelps is unlikely to swim the more gruel ling 200m freestyle in
individual events but he needs to enter it at the national titles if
he wants a place on the 4x200m relay team.
"I thought technically he was pretty good," said Bowman.
"He was much better than he's been in training so far so he's
definitely improving in that stroke and I think as he goes along
that will get a lot better."
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The 100m butterfly is one of two individual events that Phelps won
at three successive Olympics. And if he qualifies for the event at
the 2016 Rio Olympics, he will automatically make the U.S. men's
medley relay, which has never been beaten at the Olympics.
Phelps finished a close second in the 100m butterfly to his great
rival Ryan Lochte at his comeback in suburban Phoenix last month but
touched the wall first on Friday.
Lochte was not in the race, watching from the stands as he recovers
from a knee injury, allowing Phelps to coast to victory.
His 52.13 seconds was slightly below his best time in Phoenix but
enough to register his first win since he retired and send an
ominous warning to his rivals that he is back and means business.
(Reporting by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue /
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