BRISBANE (AFP) - American swimming superstar Michael Phelps said on Saturday it would take time to return to his best ahead of next week's Pan Pacific Championships in Australia.
Phelps, the 18-time Olympic gold medallist, returned to competition in April after a retirement that lasted nearly two years and finished this month's US Championships without a title. The 29-year-old is preparing for his first international meet since the 2012 London Olympics.
The greatest Olympian of all time will contest the 200 metres individual medley and the 100 metres 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.
"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," Phelps told reporters after team training in Brisbane.
"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, 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 quitting for a time after the London Olympics. "I think I was the first one to say that he's going to come back," he told reporters.
"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."
Results from the Gold Coast meet featuring Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Japan and Brazil will determine the US team for the 2015 world championships in Russia.