Los Angeles - The busiest meet of Michael Phelps's comeback continued Saturday with a runner-up finish to training partner Yannick Agnel in the 200m freestyle at the Santa Clara Grand Prix.
Phelps, whose record 22 Olympic medals include an astonishing 18 golds, said chasing Agnel, France's world and Olympic champion, had him hurting in the last 50 meters.
Agnel, who now trains with Phelps under coach Bob Bowman at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, clocked 1min 46.99sec, with Phelps a distant second in 1:48.20.
Another North Baltimore swimmer, Conor Dwyer, was third in 1:48.36.
“I got left like I was standing still in the last 50 by this guy,” Phelps said, nodding at Agnel. “That really wasn't the funnest last 50 ever.”
But Phelps thought it was encouraging, coming after weeks of punishing altitude training.
The time improved on his morning heats time of 1:49.61, which had bettered his only other competitive 200m free time this year - a 1:51.69 in the preliminaries at Charlotte in May.
“It felt good to get my first 200 under my belt - in a final at least,” Phelps said. “Hopefully, it can build into the next couple weeks and then nationals.”
The US championships in Irvine, California, in August are the selection meet for the Pan Pacific Championships - US swimmers' biggest international competition this season.
Phelps, who came out of a near two-year retirement in April, has been coy about whether he intends this comeback to take him back to swimming's biggest international stages - such as next year's world championships in Russia and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
But the comeback is clearly gathering steam. In the third meet of his return, Phelps is contesting a more demanding program.
On Friday, he tied for first place in the 100m butterfly with Tom Shields, and finished second in the 100m freestyle behind Olympic champion Nathan Adrian.
He is slated to swim again on Sunday, in the 200m individual medley.
Phelps's sheer pleasure in the sport - something that was in short supply by the time he departed the 2012 London Olympics saying he was through - is evident.
He said the cadre of talented swimmers at North Baltimore make training an entertaining challenge.
“Every day in workout, it is fun because we do always have someone that's going full force,” Phelps said, adding that it was a bonus to compete against his clubmates in Saturday's final.
“To be able to jump in and race them all, it was awesome,” he said.