Michael Phelps, who has a record 18 Olympic gold medals, swam the fastest 200 meter butterfly in the world. The 30-year-old Michigan alum stopped the clock at 1:52.94 in the event at the U.S. National Championships in San Antonio, Texas on Friday night. He also raced to victory in the 100 meter butterfly with a time of 50.45 on Saturday night. After months of disappointing finishes, Phelps finally sent the world a message: he’s ready for Rio.
That's the fastest time the Baltimore native has clocked in six years in the 200 meter butterfly.
Back in 2009, Phelps set the world record in the event with a 1:51.51, when FINA still allowed high tech suits. Then at the 2012 London Games, South Africa’s Chad Le Clos out-touched him to finish the event in 1:52.96, taking home the gold. Phelps’ time on Friday is not only two-hundredths of a second faster than Le Clos’ Olympic gold winning time, it bested the 200 meter butterfly at this year’s FINA World Championships by 0.54 seconds.
For the 100 meter event, Phelps posted a time faster than his 2012 Olympic winning time and was only 0.63 seconds off of his world record of 49.82. His victory and time at the U.S. Nationals perfectly answered trash talk from rival Le Clos, who took first place at the World Championships with a time of 50.56.
Phelps’ swims show that his return to Olympic shape was not as impossible as his critics believed it might be. Many thought that his 2016 Olympic campaign would be much more challenging after his announcement to unretire. Yet again, Phelps proved that he is not one to back down from a challenge.
"Anything is possible if you do want something bad enough," he said in interviews after his race on Friday night. "I went through a lot, and to be able to train like I did to get ready for this and do that, I can do whatever I put my mind to."
Though these times don’t guarantee Phelps automatic gold at next year’s Olympics, it puts him in serious contention. Whatever happens in the coming months, Phelps proves that he is one of, if not the greatest swimmer the world has seen.