Phelps impresses in first international comeback race
(Reuters) - Michael Phelps made an ominous return to international competition on Friday, qualifying for the final of the 100 meters freestyle at the Pan Pacific championships at Australia's Gold Coast.
Taking on the world's best sprinters in an event he rarely competed in even at his peak, Phelps won his heat and touched the wall in 48.45 seconds.
His time was third fastest overall, just behind the reigning Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.05) and the two-time world champion James Magnussen (48.25), but was still the talk of the pool deck on a rainy morning.
Still in the early stages of his comeback after he retired following the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps has struggled to get back to his best and pulled out of the 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke heats on Thursday.
And although he is not expected to keep up with Adrian and Magnussen in the final, his eye-popping performance was the best sign yet that he is on track to make a big splash at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"I am excited to get that out of the way and hopefully race faster," Phelps told reporters.
"We were working on just the stroke and today I was saying my stroke felt easier than it normally had so I guess that's a good thing.
"The first 50 felt really good and I knew I had to win that heat if I wanted a chance to swim in the final."
Missy Franklin, still battling the effects of back spasms, recovered from her disappointing start to the four-day meet to qualify for the women's 100m final. Continued...