SAN ANTONIO (Texas) • Michael Phelps made it three national titles and three world-leading times in three days on Sunday, with a sizzling 200m individual medley triumph at the United States swimming championships.
The 18-time Olympic gold medallist electrified the crowd by hitting the 150-metre mark under world record pace en route to a dominant victory in 1min 54.75sec.
"I'm pumped," Phelps said. "Being able to do that right now, I'm very, very pleased and it's something great to build on of."
Although he faded on the final freestyle leg to finish outside the world record of 1:54.00 set by US team-mate Ryan Lochte in 2011, he was more than a second faster than the 1:55.81 Lochte produced to win the world title in Kazan, Russia, last week.
Phelps lost his World Championships berth as part of the sanctions for his drink-driving arrest last September. However, he has made sure he is on the radar of the globe's elite - posting times that would have been good enough to win in Kazan in the 100m and 200m butterfly as well as the medley.
He admitted it was one of his aims going into the nationals, although he said he was not sure things would pan out that way.
"Obviously, I'd like to make a statement like that," said Phelps, who left runner-up Will Licon trailing home 3.6 seconds adrift. "But sometimes that doesn't happen."
Phelps' comeback from a near two-year retirement was disrupted last year when his second drink-driving arrest brought a six-month ban from competition.
But he said the three solid races had him feeling like his old self - the scintillating swimmer who won an unprecedented eight golds at the 2008 Beijing Games rather than the under-prepared athlete who claimed one individual and two relay golds and two silvers in 2012 .
Phelps is already looking ahead to the work remaining before next year's Rio Olympics. "I'd like to do a best time at some point," he said. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE