OMAHA, NEB. — As the day on which he qualified for a fifth Olympics bled into his 31st birthday, Michael Phelps could not sleep.
He was wide awake at 5 a.m. Thursday, with more than seven hours to go until he would swim his preliminary heat in the 200-meter individual medley. So he decided to pester his coach, Bob Bowman.
"I knew Bob was awake, so I started firing texts," he said. "He pretty much just said 'Shut up and get ready for this morning.'"
Phelps seemed ready enough for his first swim as a 31-year-old, gliding to the wall to win his heat in 1 minute, 58.95 seconds. His old friend and rival, Ryan Lochte, swam slightly faster in the previous heat, finishing in 1 minute, 58.05 seconds.
"I feel older," Phelps said. "My muscles aren't the same, so they hurt a lot worse this morning. But this is the grind time for me over the next couple of days."
He'll be back for his evening semifinal in the 200 IM with the final likely awaiting him on Friday night.
Asked how he'd celebrate his birthday, he said, "I'm not."
Phelps' training partner, Chase Kalisz, skipped the 200 IM after winning the 400 IM on Sunday. "He's back to training for Rio," Bowman explained in a text.