04/24 15:44 CDT Michael Phelps wins 100 fly heat in comeback meet
Michael Phelps wins 100 fly heat in comeback meet
AP Sports Writer
MESA, Ariz. (AP) --- A giddy Michael Phelps qualified fastest for the 100-meter
butterfly final Thursday in his first competition since retiring after the 2012
The 28-year-old swimmer was second at the turn and came on down the stretch to
win his heat in 52.84 seconds at the Arena Grand Prix, easily advancing to the
"I felt like a summer league swimmer today," Phelps said, smiling. "I felt like
I should have my heat and lane written on my hand so I didn't forget it."
Friend and rival Ryan Lochte was second-quickest, winning his heat in 52.94.
Joining them in the eight-man final will be Olympian Jason Dunford of Kenya and
two-time Olympian Albert Subirats of Venezuela.
Phelps and Lochte joked with each other behind the starting blocks when Phelps
came out early for his heat, which came after Lochte's.
"He said, 'Maybe we should both just mess around and see if we can both get in
the 'C' final,'" Phelps said.
Phelps' longtime coach Bob Bowman liked what he saw.
"I could tell when he came in that it was going to be good, that he was into
it," he said.
Phelps walked on deck wearing his usual ear buds, but his smile replaced the
serious look he always wore during the height of his career.
"It was more like I was just so excited to swim," he said. "You're going to
hear this word come out of my mouth a lot --- it was fun."
The 22-time Olympic medalist was greeted with loud cheers from the packed
"It really is wild. It's good for the sport," Phelps said about his reception.
"This is the sport I've known my whole entire life and loved my whole life.
When I heard the roar in the stands, it's amazing."
Retired speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian,
tweeted good luck to Phelps, saying, "Excited to see you back brother."
The three-day meet sold out every session the day his comeback was announced
last week, with a capacity of 1,200 at Skyline Aquatic Center. A pair of $40
all-session tickets was being advertised online for $250. USA Swimming issued
100 media credentials --- five times more than usual.
The possible future of American swimming with the same first name as Phelps was
in the 100 fly heats. Michael Andrew, a 15-year-old from Lawrence, Kan.,
qualified for the 'C' final in 55.23. He has broken more than 30 national
age-group records and last June became the youngest U.S. male swimmer to turn
pro. He was excited to meet his idol Phelps on Wednesday.
"Swimming needs you!" he tweeted after they traded handshakes. "You rock!"
Phelps is the world and American record holder in the 100 fly, with a time of
49.82 set in 2009. He became the first man to win the same event at three
consecutive Olympics when he won in London with a time of 51.21, his last
competitive time in the event before Thursday.
Phelps' time was easily good enough to surpass the qualifying standard of 54.79
for the U.S. national championships in August. That meet will decide the team
for next year's world championships.
"One step at a time," he said.