Michael Phelps will take another step in his comeback at a Grand Prix meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 16.
His coach, Bob Bowman, told The Associated Press on Monday night that Phelps has entered the 100-meter butterfly and 200 freestyle at the Charlotte Grand Prix, though Bowman is not sure Phelps will compete in both.
The events are on the same day, keeping in line with the plan to build up Phelps' endurance, but cut back on the sort of grueling, multi-day programs he once swam. Phelps returned to competition at a meet in Arizona less than two weeks ago, his first since retiring after the 2012 London Games as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
He competed in two events at the Mesa Grand Prix, finishing second to longtime rival Ryan Lochte in the 100 fly and matching the fourth-fastest time in the world this year. Phelps also competed in the 50 freestyle, but used his preliminary heat to work on his butterfly and finished 42nd overall against swimmers who were using the much faster stroke.
"We were encouraged by his performances in Mesa and look forward to trying a 200 in Charlotte," Bowman said in a text message. Phelps also has put his name in for the final Grand Prix meet of the season in Santa Clara, California, next month, though he is taking the comeback one step at a time and not committing to any long-term goals.
Still, it's clear he wouldn't be putting in the work if the 2016 Rio Olympics were not his primary focus. Phelps has already competed in four Summer Games, winning 18 golds and 22 medals overall. The Grand Prix schedule provides tuneups for the U.S. national championships in August, where teams will be chosen for the Pan Pacific Championships later that month and next year's world championships in Kazan, Russia — an important steppingstone for the Olympics.
Phelps is the three-time defending Olympic champion in the 100 fly, so it's obvious that race would be part of any Olympic plan. He won the 200 free at the 2008 Beijing Games — during his record eight-gold performance — but dropped the event in London.
After the Charlotte meet, Phelps will head to Colorado for high-altitude training beginning May 27.
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