He's still not quite back to being his old self. Yet.
Phelps took an early lead in the 200-meter butterfly Friday night, then fended off a late charge from Brazil's Kaio de Almeida for his third win in two days at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Phelps finished in 1 minute, 55.34 seconds. De Almeida touched at 1:55.85, and China's Wu Peng was third in 1:57.86.
"I purposefully turned to that side (at 150) because I knew if he (de Almeida) was close, it was going to be a tough finish and I was very tired," the 14-time Olympic gold medalist said. "So I had to check how much room I had and I tried to stay under as long as I could because the best thing I have right now is my kick."
It's an unusual admission from one of the world's top athletes.
Phelps broke Mark Spitz's Olympic record by winning eight golds in 2008, but he hasn't been the same this season.
At his first meet, the Austin Grand Prix, Ryan Lochte, the world's most dominant swimmer in 2010, beat Phelps in the 200 individual medley. Phelps wound up in the B final.
Three weeks of training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., now has Phelps rounding into form.
On Thursday night, he won both head-to-head duels against the weary-looking Lochte by posting the world's best times this season in the 200 freestyle and the 100 fly. On Friday night, Phelps made it three-for-three, beating the previous world best (1:57.20) by more than 1.8 seconds -- even though it was tougher.
"I think for me, being over a second faster than what I was last summer, that's a pretty good time," Phelps said. "The key now is to start doing some more butterfly sets."
The expected showdown in Indy between Phelps and Lochte hasn't really materialized.
Lochte was better Friday. After finishing 14th in the 50 free, Lochte came right back in the next event, the 100 backstroke, and wound up in a dead heat. The 26-year-old, three-time Olympic gold medalist and 25-year-old Matt Grevers each finished in 54.08 seconds.
Lochte and Phelps weren't the only Olympians with quick times.
Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer, from Texas, barely won the women's 50 free over Jessica Hardy, of Long Beach, Calif. Vollmer finished in 25.09, third in the world, while Hardy was clocked at 25.10.
Olympic silver medalist Elaine Breeden won the women's 200 fly in 2:08.60, the second-best time in the world this year.
Olympic gold medalist Jason Lezak, now age 35, won the men's 50 free in 22.59, narrowly beating William Copeland and Josh Schneider, who both finished in 22.65.