Michael Phelps may be making a comeback… But, Ryan Lochte is the King of the Pool in the 100-meter butterfly.
The 29-year-old half-Cuban swimmer and 11-time Olympic medalist beat Phelps in the event final at the Arena Grand Prix on Thursday night.
Lochte touched first in 51.93 seconds, second-fastest in the world this year. Phelps took second in 52.13 in his first meet since retiring after the 2012 London Games.
“I swam a final again,” a smiling Phelps said. “I said I wanted to be around 52.0 and I would be completely happy with that.”
Phelps is the three-time Olympic champion and current world record-holder in the event. His time tied for fourth-fastest in the world.
“It’s one meet; it’s one race,” Phelps said. “It’s a long way whether I decide to continue or not. This was awesome. I’m really excited about how things went. I do know what I need to do if I want to continue and swim faster.”
Olympian Jason Dunford of Kenya finished third in 53.08.
Swimming before a sellout crowd and lots of cameras, Lochte led at the turn and Phelps was second.
“Down there at the turn I kind of peeked over and I saw him and almost started smiling,” Lochte said about his longtime friend and rival.
Phelps interjected, “Why? Because you were ahead?”
“I probably wouldn’t have gone that time if Phelps wasn’t in that pool with me. We push each other all the time,” said Lochte, whose rivalry and friendship with Phelps dates to 2004.
Lochte is trying to regain his own form after missing five months with a knee injury. He changed coaches and relocated from Florida to Charlotte, N.C., after the London Games.
Coach Bob Bowman said Phelps was better technically in the morning than at night.
“He missed a whole stroke on the turn,” Bowman said. “My expectations were he would come and maybe enjoy it and not be terrible, so all those were met. That’s a really good time to start with.”