— MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Returning to swimming after a 20-month retirement, Michael Phelps is easing back into the sport he once dominated by racing one of his best events.
The 18-time Olympic gold medalist will swim the 100-meter butterfly at the Arena Grand Prix on Thursday, his first competition since retiring after the 2012 London Games.
Phelps is the world and American record holder in the event, which includes rival Ryan Lochte and four-time Olympian Roland Schoeman of South Africa. At 28, Phelps isn't even the oldest swimmer in the event. Schoeman is 33 and there is another swimmer who is 34.
Phelps hasn't competed since winning a gold medal in the 400 medley relay in London, where he won his record 22nd Olympic medal. Other than racing, he's not sure what to expect at the Arena Grand Prix.
"Just being able to get back into that mentality of competition, that's one thing I really loved the most about it when I was really competing in 2012 and throughout my career," he said after practice Wednesday.
"That's something I'm looking forward to experiencing."
Phelps said he decided to end retirement because he missed the sport that has been his entire life.
He tried golf and high-stakes poker in a quest to satisfy his competitive drives. He found nothing compared to pulling on a suit and diving in.
"Looking at a black line for hours on end, I don't know what made me do it," he said, "but I'm having fun."
Phelps resumed training last fall at North Baltimore Aquatic Club in his hometown, spurred on by a younger group of swimmers.
"I really am the grandfather of the group, that's the worst part about it," he said.