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Michael Phelps wins 200-meter individual medley at U.S. winter nationals

FEDERAL WAY, WASH. — Michael Phelps took another step toward an Olympic comeback, winning the 200-meter individual medley Thursday night at the U.S. winter national championships in the pool where he kick-started his career.

Preparing for the Rio Games next year, the 30-year-old Phelps finished in 1 minute, 57.61 seconds, well off his world-best time this year of 1:54.75. Ryan Lochte set the world record of 1:54.00 in 2011.

"I think the biggest thing I've had a problem with over the last year has been my freestyle," Phelps said. "I think it actually felt decent tonight. I didn't feel like I was standing still and dying. One-fifty-seven is about where I want to be. I mean it's faster than where I was at the end of the year last year going into nationals. So, I think we're on the right track."

The 18-time Olympic champion also will race in the 100 butterfly on Friday and the 200 butterfly Saturday at the King Aquatic Center, where he first burst on the scene as a 15-year-old.

"The first time I ever broke 2 minutes in the 200 fly was here," said Phelps, who has the posted world-best times in the 100 and 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley this year. "Six months after that, I made my first Olympic team."

"After I swam 1:59 here, that's when everything just kind of took off. Like I said, I made my first team and there it went. It was good. I've enjoyed this pool."

Phelps, who has tried to make changes in his life since a second arrest in 2014 for drunken driving, said he is enjoying all aspects his pursuit of a fifth Olympic berth.

"My one thing is just how can I be better each day, both in and out of the pool? I think that's something that I just try to do, if I can make little improvements, day-by-day," he said. "I'm loving life and that's how I've been, really over the last year. I've been able to take a lot of strides and it's been showing in the pool.

"I'm just enjoying every step of the way. I think once we go get to the end of the road, it probably will be more emotional than it was in 2012. Just because I am doing this because I want to," he said. "Like I've said before, I was kind of forced in 2012. This ride'll be a little bit better than that one."

Chase Kalisz (Fallston) was second Thursday in 1:58.77.

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