Phelps still has competitive fire

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iol spt may16 Phelps AP Michael Phelps, whose record cache of 22 Olympic medals include a staggering 18 golds, still hates to lose. Photo by: Chuck Burton/AP

Charlotte – Michael Phelps, whose record cache of 22 Olympic medals include a staggering 18 golds, still hates to lose.

The Olympic great is slated to continue a comeback that could take him all the way to the 2016 Rio Games on Friday, when he races in the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly at the Charlotte Ultraswim Grand Prix meeting.

Phelps spoke Thursday as the meeting got underway, when he was asked if he has the same competitive fire.

“I don't want anybody to beat me,” Phelps said, according to NBC Sports. “Nobody.”

Phelps returned to competition for the first time since the 2012 London Olympics at the Grand Prix meeting in Mesa, Arizona, last month.

He was runner-up to Ryan Lochte in the 100m butterfly in Mesa and also swam a somewhat experimental 50m free Ä which he used to test his butterfly stroke in the heats.

Phelps will get a stern test of his progress in Friday's 200m free, in which he'll be up against the gold and silver medallists from last year's World Championships Ä France's Yannick Agnel and American Conor Dwyer.

Both train with Phelps at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC).

The 200m freestyle was among the unprecedented eight gold medals Phelps won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but he dropped it from his schedule at the London Games.

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, have been coy about whether or not Rio is in their plans, but this week's meeting and another June 19-22 in Santa Clara, California, are the best chances Phelps will have to post qualifying times for the US championships in August in Irvine, California.

That event serves as the American qualifying meet for next year's world championships in Russia, the last major full global showdown in the pool before Rio.

In Arizona, Phelps did enough to qualify to swim the 100m fly at the national championships.

Whether he'd be interested in pursuing the individual 200m free in his comeback remains to be seen, but a solid time in the event would keep him in the picture for the 4x200m free relay in international events.

This week's meeting started auspiciously for Phelps's NBAC. Denmark's Lotte Friis, who trains in Baltimore, edged NBAC clubmates Becca Mann and Gillian Ryan in winning the women's 1,500m freestyle in 16min 07.14sec.

American Connor Jaeger won the men's 800m free in 7:58.59. – Sapa-AFP



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