MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Phelps experienced his first failure in his return to competition after a six-month suspension.
He was too slow to qualify for the 400-meter freestyle final Friday in the Arena Pro Swim Series meet, finishing 17th overall.
Swimming in a far outside lane, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist was fourth in his heat with a time of 4 minutes, 2.67 seconds. That left Phelps in the C final at night, but he didn’t swim it. Instead, he put in some time in the TV booth, with a headset clamped over his black Baltimore Orioles cap.
Phelps tried the 400 free for the first time in a meet since 2009, mostly as a personal challenge.
“Just to see how much I can do and how much I can hang,” he said.
Now, he is looking ahead to Saturday, when he’s set to compete in the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle, events more in keeping with his penchant for shorter races at this stage of his career.
Phelps won the 100 butterfly on Thursday as he returned after serving the suspension from USA Swimming for a second drunken driving arrest. He’s competing for the first time since last August.
He scratched the 100 backstroke preliminaries Friday.
Phelps’ longtime rival, Ryan Lochte, also failed to make the eight-man A final. But he swam the consolation final and wound up fourth.
In the 400 free final, Michael McBroom won in 3:50.38. Olympian Conor Dwyer took second in 3:51.87. Tyler Clary finished last. Earlier, he was second in the 200 butterfly.
World record holder Katie Ledecky won the 400 free in 4:01.95, second-fastest in the world this year behind her top time of 4:00.47 in January at Austin, Texas.
The high school senior from Maryland was briefly under world-record pace after 100 meters and cruised home 9.49 seconds ahead of Danish Olympian Lotte Friis, who touched in 4:10.34.
Three-time Olympian Katinka Hosszu of Hungary tripled, finishing third in the 200 butterfly and coming back less than 30 minutes later to win the 100 backstroke in 1:00.72. She wrapped up the night by finishing sixth in the 400 free.
Cammile Adams won the 200 fly in 2:08.80.
In the backstroke, Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, a 31-year-old former Olympian, finished second in 1:00.89.
Two-time Olympic medalist Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia won the 100 back in 53.84. Defending Olympic champion Matt Grevers took second in 54.83.
Olympian Breeja Larson won the 200 breaststroke in front of her hometown fans, finishing in 2:27.82.
Another veteran Olympian, Natalie Coughlin, finished third in the 50 free. She used the chaotic sprint race as a tuneup for the 100 free on Saturday. Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace of the Bahamas won in 24.98. Simone Manuel took second in 24.98 and Coughlin touched in 25.15.
Josh Schneider won the men’s 50 free in 22.52. Former Olympian Cullen Jones finished fifth.