Swimming superstar Michael Phelps sent an ominous warning to the Australian team ahead of next week’s Pan Pacific championships on the Gold Coast – he still has the killer instinct and the fire in the belly.
The 29-year-old Phelps is preparing for his first international meet since the 2012 London Olympics after ending a near two-year retirement in April.
The greatest Olympian of all time will contest the 200m individual medley and the 100m butterfly at the four-day PanPacs starting on Thursday as part of a 60-strong US team also featuring Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky.
“I still can’t stand to lose,” Phelps told reporters after training at the Chandler Aquatic Centre in Brisbane.
“Losing by a hundredth (of a second) and losing by five one-hundredth at the (US) nationals in two out of three events was frustrating but I am taking it a lot slower now than what I did before because I do understand that I need to give my body time to get back and build up to where I want to be.
“I can’t just expect to do everything I want from the get-go. Being able to have a year-and-a-half off, I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself and I still have that competitive side.
“It’s still the same with anything I want to do. But it’s going to take a little time for me to get back. We’re doing it slowly.”
Phelps, an 18-time Olympic gold medallist, has matured into a role where he is now the elder statesman of the US team rather than the introverted superstar who had little time to help his young teammates.
“I’m usually pretty quiet on these trips and keep to myself,” he said. “I’m trying to make more of a point to talk to everybody.
“It’s kind of weird being one of the old guys. I started being a young 15-year-old boy and now I’m one of the oldest guys on the team.”
Phelps, who has won 22 Olympic medals, sealed his place in the US team for the PanPacs with a second silver medal at the US national titles last week, finishing just 0.05sec behind world record-holder Lochte in the 200m individual medley.
Lochte said he knew Phelps would return to the sport, despite walking away from the pool after the London Olympics.
“I think I was the first one to say that he’s going to come back,” Lochte said.
“Once you have that competitive edge in you, it’s hard to get rid of. He missed being in that water, getting up on the blocks and the excitement of racing the top guys in the world.