Michael Phelps is still on top of his game, but he has some competition.
After announcing the end of his retirement two weeks ago, the 22-time Olympic medalist returned to the pool with a splash at the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday.
In his first competitive race since the 2012 Olympics in London, Phelps placed second in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 51.95 seconds, finishing 0.2 seconds behind fellow Olympian Ryan Lochte.
Lochte made waves at the London Olympics when he beat out Phelps to capture gold in the 400-meter individual medley. Lochte finished with five medals in London while Phelps took home six, four of them gold medals.
Phelps’ return to competitive swimming is now official, but there is still much speculation as to whether he will compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The 28-year-old was asked about his future while in Mesa but failed to make any promises.
“I’m doing this for me,” Phelps said before Thursday’s race. “If I don’t become as successful as you think I would or should be, that’s your own opinion. I enjoy being in the pool and sport of swimming and having fun with what I’m doing.”
While Phelps’ legacy as the greatest swimmer of all-time is fairly secure — he holds all-time records for the most overall medals (22) and most gold medals (18) in Olympic history — competing against a talent like Lochte could be seen as a reason to jump back in the pool.
Phelps, however, maintains that whatever path he chooses to take will be strictly his own decision.
“Nobody is forcing me to do this or that,” Phelps said. “I want to be back in the water. (Trainer Bob Bowman) and I can do anything we put our mind to. That’s what we’ve done in the past. I’m looking forward to wherever this road takes me.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@RowdyGaines