It was just like old times for Michael Phelps on Friday. The world’s most decorated swimmer was on the top of the podium at the Pan Pacific championships, collecting another gold medal after a thrilling race win.
He had just helped the Americans win the 4×200 metres freestyle relay after a titanic struggle against Japan at Australia’s Gold Coast on a rainy winter’s night.
For a man who has won a mind-boggling 18 Olympic gold medals, it might normally have seemed like just another day at the office, but not this time.The importance was not lost on Phelps, who was swimming at his first international meet in two years in an event the Americans have not lost for over a decade. “I think being able to hold that tradition for this long and being able to get back on the podium, it feels amazing,” Phelps told reporters. “We all know that by no means is this going to get any easier over the next two years, and I think having a close one like this should propel us into the Worlds next summer, and hopefully on to Rio from there.”
Comebacks have invariably been cruel to swimmers and even Phelps has struggled to get near his best, but Friday was a good day for the 28-year-old.
Not only did he win a relay gold but he also finished an impressive fourth in the 100 metres freestyle final despite taking on the world’s best sprinters in an event he rarely competed in, even at his peak.
His time of 48.51 was exactly one second outside his best ever time for the blue-riband sprint but was the best sign yet that he is on track to make a big splash at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The final was won by Australia’s Cameron McEvoy in 47.82. Behind him was the reigning Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.30) and the two-time world champion James Magnussen (48.36).