Michael Phelps, whose record cache of 22 Olympic medals includes a staggering 18 golds, still hates to lose.
Continuing a comeback that could take him all the way to the 2016 Rio Games, the Olympic great is slated on Friday to race in the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly at the Charlotte Ultraswim Grand Prix meeting.
Phelps spoke on Thursday as the meeting began, when asked if he had the same competitive fire.
“I don’t want anybody to beat me – nobody,” Phelps said, according to NBC Sports.
Phelps returned to competition for the first time since the 2012 London Olympics at a Grand Prix meeting last month in Arizona.
He was runner-up to Ryan Lochte in the 100m butterfly and also swam a somewhat experimental 50m free – 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 – France’s Yannick Agnel and American Conor Dwyer.
Both train with Phelps at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
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 coach Bob Bowman have been coy about whether Rio is in their plans, but this week’s meeting and another from June 19-22 at Santa Clara in California are the best chances Phelps will have to post qualifying times for the US championships in August.
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.