IRVINE, Calif. — Michael Phelps qualified for the 100m freestyle final in his first event of the U.S. Swimming Championships on Wednesday.
Phelps, in the fifth meet of his comeback after 20 months away from competition, was second in his heat behind Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian. Adrian clocked 48.24 seconds, best time of the morning. Phelps swam 48.77, third-fastest.
“My stroke was pretty terrible the first 50,” said Phelps, who noticed he was more than one body length behind Adrian halfway through. “I think really getting into the stroke better in warm-up is something we want to do tonight.”
Ryan Lochte also advanced to the final Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET, Universal Sports). Lochte clocked 49.21 in a later heat, sneaking into the eight-man final in the last spot.
The meet continues through Sunday, with Phelps and Lochte slated in the same event three more times.
The U.S. Swimming Championships are a qualifying meet for the biggest international competition of the year, the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-24. There, the U.S. will face top swimmers from Australia, Japan, South Africa and other non-European nations.
The top four finishers in the 100m free final will make the Pan Pacific Championships team due to the 4x100m free relay. In non-relay disciplines, the top two are guaranteed to make the Pan Pacs team, and third place will also likely make it.
In other prelims Wednesday, four-time Olympic champion Missy Franklin qualified second into the women’s 100m free final behind 18-year-old Simone Manuel.
Olympic 200m backstroke champion Tyler Clary led the qualifiers into the men’s 200m butterfly final. The 200m fly is the only event Phelps swam at all four of his Olympics, but he’s sworn it off in his comeback.
Olympian Cammile Adams paced the women’s 200m butterfly finals qualifiers. Elizabeth Beisel, an Olympic backstroke and individual medley medalist, also made the top final but said she’ll scratch the event.