For Michael Phelps time stands still.
Swimming, in many ways, is like riding a bike for the 22-time Olympic medalist who made his triumphant return to the pool Thursday at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa.
Phelps didn’t disappoint clocking the fastest qualifying time in the 100-meter butterfly, out-dueling rival Ryan Lochte who finished second, in his first competition since retiring following the 2012 Olympics.
His return to swimming didn’t come as a shock to a fellow gold medalist.
“I wasn’t all that surprised,” Valley resident and fellow swimming great Misty Hyman told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a phone interview Thursday morning. “There had been rumors that he had been training and getting back in the pool and kind of toying with the idea.”
Phelps said Wednesday at a jam-packed press conference he was grateful for his time away, spending most of his time traveling, relaxing and playing golf. He gained around 30 pounds and said he “had a lot of fun.”
Now it’s back to business. A business he owned from 2008-12 both in the water and in the advertising world, making millions in high-profile endorsements following his London Olympic accomplishments.
Hyman says she believes he’s been training more for the sprint events than the long-distance ones but knows he’s been training hard getting his body in shape and his endurance up. She even predicted his early success Thursday saying he’d perform well in the 100-meter fly.
“The muscle memory is always still there,” she explained to Cesmat. “The shorter events, when you’ve done them for so long, your body kind of remembers. I imagine he’ll still be pretty quick.”
The 28-year-old Phelps was greeted by a loud ovation from the capacity crowd.
“This is a sport I’ve known my whole entire life and I loved my whole life,” he said after the race. “When I heard the roar in the stands, it’s amazing.”