This was harder than any race in my life: Michael Phelps on comeback
After winning the 200m butterfly trials, Phelps says he is delighted to be in the American team to Rio following controversies that dogged his comeback
Omaha (United States): Michael Phelps is headed to a fifth Olympics in the event that launched his epic Games career — the 200m butterfly.
Michael Phelps reacts after qualifying for his fifth Olympics
Phelps, whose record 22 Olympic medals include an astonishing 18 gold, won the 200m fly at the US Olympic swimming trials on Wednesday, and if the time of 1m 54.84sec left something to be desired, it got the job done.
"I'm checking a box off, being able to get on the team," said Phelps, who held off Tom Shields, who took second in 1:55.81. "With everything that's happened, being able to come back — this was probably harder than any swim I've had in my life," said Phelps, whose comeback after a brief post-London retirement was disrupted by a drink-driving arrest followed by a stint in rehab.
"I didn't feel good the first two swims, didn't really feel that good tonight," added Phelps. "But getting on the team was the most important thing, and that's the only thing I had to do tonight.
Michael Phelps competes in the men’s 200m butterfly heats during the US Olympic team trials in Nebraska, US on Wednesday. Pics/AFP
"I tried to take it out and just pray to God that I was going to hang on," Phelps said.
The 200m fly was the event in which a teenaged Phelps set his first world record, and his world mark of 1:51.51 — set at the tail end of the bodysuit era in 2009 — still stands. He made his first Olympic team, in 2000, in the 200m fly.
Phelps said it was fitting that he punched his ticket to a fifth Games in the 200 fly.
Regaining the Olympic title he surrendered to Chad le Clos in London, in an event he long considered his baby, figures to be a motivator for Phelps.
"I've definitely thought a lot about that race," Phelps said.
"I know there's a lot that I did in that race that I'm not going to do again, and I think I'm more prepared this time than I was last time. I'm looking forward to having the chance to race him this summer. We have a little over 30 days to prepare," said Phelps, "Just looking forward to hopefully swimming faster than what I swam here."