Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin finished third in 200m freestyle finals, their first events of a Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday night.
Santa Clara is the biggest meet remaining for U.S. swimmers before the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in early August.
Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist, was taken off the World Championships roster as part of his punishment for a September DUI arrest. He will compete at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio in August while the world’s best are in Kazan.
On Friday, Phelps finished third in the 200m free behind Connor Jaeger, who is arguably best in the 1500m free. Jaeger prevailed in 1:48.66, followed by Russian Nikita Lobintsev (1:48.86) and Phelps (1:49.03).
Phelps, who in his last meet in May finished worse than second in all of his events for the first time since the 2000 Olympics, improved from a 1:49.26 in morning heats and 1:49.12 at his last meet.
Phelps, the 2008 Olympic 200m free champion, clocked 1:48.20 in the 200m free in Santa Clara last year.
“My stroke actually kind of felt like the old stroke again,” Phelps told media in Santa Clara. “I didn’t completely die. So I think there are a lot of positives that came out of the races, but 1:49 flat isn’t something I’m excited about. It’s kind of blah.”
This year, German world-record holder Paul Biedermann is the world’s fastest in 1:45.60, followed by Chinese Olympic silver medalist Sun Yang and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, the world’s best all-around swimmer. Biedermann, Sun and Hagino are not competing in Santa Clara.
Franklin, in her first meet since the NCAA Championships in March, finished third in her 200m freestyle. The Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk won in 1:55.68, followed by FINA Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu (1:56.88) of Hungary and Franklin (1:57.02).
“It’s good to get the cobwebs out,” Franklin said.
Heemskerk is the fastest woman in the world this year, having clocked 1:54.68 on April 3. Franklin’s personal best was 1:54.81, from winning the 2013 World Championship. The top U.S. 200m free swimmer last year, Katie Ledecky (1:55.16), is not competing in Santa Clara.
The World Championships 200m free appears to be a battle among Heemskerk, Hosszu, Franklin, Ledecky, Swede Sarah Sjostrom, Australian Emma McKeon and Italian Federica Pellegrini.
Franklin later also finished eighth in the 50m backstroke, a non-Olympic event. Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, prevailed in 27.51, an American record. Coughlin failed last year to qualify for the World Championships.
American Tom Shields touched first in the 100m butterfly in 52.22, with Phelps not in the field. Shields beat Phelps at the 2014 U.S. Championships, though Phelps was fastest in the world in the event last year at 51.17.
Hosszu captured the 400m IM by five seconds in 4:34.04, off of her 4:31.07 in the prelims, which was the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool. Hosszu is more than one second faster than anybody else in the world this year and a favorite to repeat as World champion in the event, though Chinese Olympic champion and world-record holder Ye Shiwen lurks.
Russian Yulia Efimova, the World silver medalist coming off a doping ban, took the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.13. She’s second in the world this year behind Lithuanian Olympic and World champion Ruta Meilutyte.
American Cody Miller captured the men’s 100m breast in a personal-best 59.51. That’s the fastest time by an American since Brendan Hansen‘s 59.49 to take bronze at the 2012 Olympics.
Great Britain’s Adam Peaty is fastest in the world this year, with a world-record 57.92 on April 17. Miller’s 59.51 ranks No. 3 in the world, making him a medal contender for Worlds.
Santa Clara competition continues Saturday (Universal Sports, 8 p.m. ET) and Sunday (USASwimming.org, 8 p.m. ET).