LOS ANGELES - Michael Phelps took a positive step forward in his attempt to make the United States team for the Rio Olympics when he posted his fastest time in the 200m butterfly since he launched his comeback.
The 18-time Olympic champion clocked 1min 57.62sec on Saturday to win the event at the Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, California, though he was still three seconds slower than the fastest time of the year set by Japan's Daiya Seto.
North Baltimore Aquatic Club team-mate Chase Kalisz was second in 1:58.06, with Friday's 100m fly winner Tom Shields third in 1:58.28.
"I would have liked to have finished a little better but we have been doing things in workout that I haven't done a long time in butterfly," he said. "Having that confidence back helped me."
Seto clocked 1:54.56 last month, while Singapore's Joseph Schooling did 1:55.73 at the SEA Games this month.
Phelps is coming off a high-altitude training stint and said he did not know whether he would even try to qualify for the event for next year's Rio Olympics.
"We haven't really seen much progression in this event over the last couple of years," said the two-time Olympic champion in this event.
"I came into tonight wanting to do 1:57 and I did it. I'm not sure what's going to happen over the next year, but I'm just happy to do that (1:57) because I think it's going to help me a lot in the 100m."
Phelps, 29, who retired after the 2012 Olympics but launched a comeback last year, will not contest the July 24-Aug 9 World Championships because of a drink-driving conviction.