OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Phelps looked as dominant as ever in his first event of the trials.
He was more than a second ahead of the next-fastest swimmer in the semifinals of the 200-meter butterfly Tuesday at U.S. Olympic swimming trials, powering through the water with ease while his 7-week-old son, Boomer, watched from the stands. Phelps touched in 1:55.17.
The 200m butterfly final is Wednesday night. In 2015, Phelps clocked the fastest time in the world in this event (1:52.94) since 2009. On Tuesday morning, he was the fastest man in the prelims.
Later Tuesday, Phelps scratched out of the 100m freestyle, an event he wasn’t expected to swim. Earlier in the week he also pulled himself out of the 200m free. That leaves his participation in the freestyle relays in Rio up in the air.
Phelps was seeded second in the 100m free, meaning he’d still be a strong candidate to be selected for the Olympic relay squad. It will be up to Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, who is also the U.S. Olympic men’s coach.
Phelps is now down to just three events at trials: 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly. The last time he swam only three events at an Olympic Trials was 2000, when he placed second in the 200m butterfly, 11th in the 400m IM and 20th in the 200m IM. He was 15 then and will turn 31 on Thursday.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Phelps couldn’t help but notice all the newcomers on the U.S. team – as many as 17 likely claiming spots through the first three days of the meet.
“I don’t even know half of them,” he said. “It’s exciting to have new faces, where people are really pumped to come up in the sport. That’s a good thing to see as I’m on my way out.”
Phelps, who already has 18 golds and 22 medals overall, came out of retirement seeking to win a few more before he calls it quits again.