Michael Phelps finished first or second in zero events at a meet, believed to be for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, at a Pro Swim Series stop in Charlotte over the weekend.
The 22-time Olympic medalist finished third, seventh, ninth, ninth and 11th in five events spanning three days (full results here).
“After seeing the performance of some of the people that we’ve seen this weekend, I think it’s probably a good thing that I’m not going to Worlds,” Phelps told media in Charlotte, referencing the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August, which he is ineligible for due to his punishment following a September DUI arrest. “I have work to do.”
Phelps said he was frustrated, that he felt like his legs weren’t connected to his upper body, his dolphin kicks were “horrendous,” his freestyle stroke was “pretty garbage” and that he had to reassess “a bunch of stuff.”
Phelps said he planned on swimming in the next Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif., from June 18-21 and then spend three weeks training at altitude in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“There’s some time, but not much,” said Phelps, who said for the first time in April that he harbored ambitions of making a fifth Olympic team in 2016. “Whatever it is I have to figure out, I have to figure out now.”
On Sunday, Phelps failed to reach the top eight-man finals in both of his events — the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley. In 2014, Phelps returned from a 20-month competitive retirement to be the only U.S. man to post a world-leading time in an Olympic event (100m butterfly).
This year, Phelps is the third-fastest American in the 200m freestyle, fourth in the 100m fly and fifth in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley.
“What I want most is to be racing the competition I need to be racing,” Phelps said. “Not taking away anything from the B heat [consolation finals Phelps raced in Sunday], but I want to race Ryan [Lochte] and those guys.”
Lochte won the 200m individual medley in 1:57.20, ranking third in the world this year.
Olympic champion Nathan Adrian won the 100m freestyle in 48.85 seconds, the fastest by an American this year and 25th-fastest in the world. (U.S. swimmers are generally lower ranked at this point due in part because other nations have held World Championships trials, requiring their swimmers to taper and peak already. Top U.S. swimmers, such as Phelps, may look at these spring meets as training.)
“It’s a good starting spot,” Adrian told media in Charlotte. “I came here trying to shake a little rust loose. … I consider this the first meet of the championship season.”
Hungarian FINA women’s Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu completed a Phelps-in-his-prime-like feat, winning six events over three days in Charlotte.
On Sunday, Hosszu clocked the fastest-ever 200m IM in a U.S. pool (2:08.66, fastest in the world this year) and a personal-best 200m backstroke (2:07.79, No. 3 in the world this year) in a span of about 20 minutes.
Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, won the 100m free in 54.24 against a field that did not include the fastest Americans from 2014, Simone Manuel and Missy Franklin. Coughlin, 32, swam a 54.18 in a 100m free at the Pro Swim Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., last month and is the fastest American in the event this year.