Michael Phelps back with ‘OK’ victory in Mesa

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps and his coach called his first final swim in nearly eight months “OK,” a victory in the 100m butterfly in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday night.

Phelps, in his first meet since the Pan Pacific Championships in August, clocked 52.38 seconds to prevail by .73 of a second over longtime friendly rival Ryan Lochte (full results here | race video).

“I’m always hard on myself, but being the first race back I think it’s OK,” Phelps said on Universal Sports, wrapping himself in a white towel on the pool deck shortly after the race. “Probably some things to fix, but I think it’s a good starting point. … I’m looking forward on more to come.”

Longtime coach Bob Bowman agreed.

“OK,” Bowman told reporters. “There’s so many things he could do better, and obviously the time’s not particularly good. … That’s kind of his get-into-it swim.”

Last year, Phelps swam the 100m fly in 52.13 in Mesa in his first meet since the 2012 Olympics, losing that race to Lochte. Asked about Phelps being slower Thursday, Bowman pointed to his pupil putting in more work outside of competition.

“Last year I let him get a little peppy,” Bowman said. “This time, I trained the living crap out of him. … I told him, you’re actually tired from the training for the first time in probably a long time.”

Phelps could swim in two events each on Friday and Saturday as he trains with a possible fifth Olympics in mind in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky took the 200m freestyle over European silver medalist Katinka Hosszu and Olympic champion Allison Schmitt.

Ledecky’s time, 1:56.79, was .63 slower than her winning clocking at the Pro Swim Series in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 16. Only the Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk and Australia’s Emma McKeon have been faster this year.

Ledecky, who took the 1500m free by 44.72 seconds Wednesday, is slated to swim the 400m free Friday and the 800m free Saturday. The high school senior is the world record holder in all of those events.

Conor Dwyer took the men’s 200m free by .99 over Lochte.

The Hungarian Hosszu, the FINA World Swimmer of the Year, captured the 400m individual medley. Ledecky was fifth, 2.59 seconds slower than in her morning preliminary heat in an event she rarely swims.

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