Michael Phelps finished seventh in his first 200m butterfly final since the 2012 Olympics at a Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte on Saturday.
The most decorated Olympian of all time clocked 2:00.77 in the eight-swimmer race, 3.19 seconds behind winner Chase Kalisz.
Phelps’ first Olympic race was the 200m fly at the Sydney 2000 Games at age 15, where he finished fifth (in 1:56.50) as the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 1932. It became his signature event, and he dominated until South African Chad le Clos nipped him by .05 at the 2012 Olympics.
When Phelps unretired last year, he swore off the 200m fly. His appearance Saturday may have been merely for training purposes, but he left the door open to add it to his regular program while talking to media in Charlotte on Friday night. Phelps has plenty of time to tinker before the 2016 Olympic trials, since he’s not swimming at the World Championships this summer.
“For me to ever want to really compete at that race, I would make sure that I was in the best shape possible,” Phelps said Friday. “I know what I have to do to be able to get there. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.”
Phelps’ world record in the 200m fly is 1:51.51, set at the 2009 World Championships. His time on Saturday night would have placed 25th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials.
Phelps is scheduled for two events on the final day in Charlotte on Sunday, the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley (finals at 6 p.m. ET on Universal Sports).
In other events Saturday, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin took second in the 50m freestyle in 25.03. The Bahamas’ Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace won in 24.35.
Coughlin, 32, finished sixth in the 50m free at the 2014 U.S. Championships in 24.97, failing to make the World Championships team. Two swimmers per event can compete for one nation at a Worlds or Olympics.
Josh Schneider, a 27-year-old who has never made an Olympic team, beat world record holder Cesar Cielo of Brazil, American record holder Cullen Jones and Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian in the men’s 50m free.
Schneider clocked 21.96, followed by Cielo (22.05) and Adrian (22.19). Schneider’s time tied him for fifth in the world this year. Schneider is the fastest American in the event this year.
FINA women’s Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu of Hungary swept the 200m fly and the 100m backstroke in a span of about 35 minutes.
Ryan Lochte finished fourth in the men’s 100m back, an event he hasn’t entered at a major international meet since 2007.