SAN ANTONIO - Olympic swim legend Michael Phelps completed an epic effort at the US national championships Monday, having served notice he has the speed and skill to star at the 2016 Olympics.
Phelps only finished fifth in Monday's 200-meter breaststroke final in 2mins 11.30 secs, well off winner Craig Benson's winning time of 2:09.68.
But Phelps seldom swims the event and was entered more as a challenge and training exercise rather than with a victory in mind, having won three events in the prior three days and beaten the winning time at the world championships in Russia in each.
"I'm in a great place, a place where I haven't been in a long time, a place where I have confidence," Phelps said. "I've seen the work I've been doing, and done, has worked.
"I'm going into an Olympic year having something to build on and that hasn't happened in a while, probably since 2007. I'm excited to get back into it."
Phelps was supposed to be competing at the worlds but a drink driving incident led to him being dropped from the US team, instead having to be content with vying for national titles as the US meet being staged at the same time as the worlds.
Phelps met his self-imposed goal in the 200 breaststroke by breaking his former North Baltimore Aquatic Club record of 2:12.1.
"That's what I wanted to beat," Phelps said. "I'll take a 2:11.3 any day of the week. I was just spinning coming in. I had no legs." Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, still showed he can be a threat in certain events next year at the Rio De Janeiro Games.
The 18-time Olympic champion won the 200 individual medley on Sunday in 1:54.75, faster than the 1:55.81 compatriot Ryan Lochte produced in winning the world title in Russia. He earlier won the 100 and 200 butterfly in times that would have beaten the world championship top times as well.
Phelps said he would rather have rested and not swum Monday, but noted it will probably help bolster his confidence about his ability to work in Olympic relays and multiple swims within a few hours in tough situations.
"I kind of wanted to just relax to be honest," Phelps said. "It's kind of good as far as to swim events like this back to back, to see if I can get up and race.
"It's probably good I was able to race these together and see I could race it."