Rowdy GainesRowdy Gaines (Seth Rubinroit/Universal Sports)

Click HERE to watch Michael Phelps’ comeback race. 

By Seth Rubinroit

Racing for the first time since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics, Michael Phelps made a statement, recording the fastest time in the 100m butterfly heats and then finishing second to Ryan Lochte in the 100m butterfly finals at USA Swimming’s Arena Grand Prix at Mesa on Thursday.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and USN commentator Rowdy Gaines sat down with universalsports.com to talk about Phelps’ comeback.

What did Phelps show you in his first races back?

It seemed like he had just taken a week off and was right back at it. I saw the same old Michael. I saw the same love of the sport, the same competitiveness.

The stroke hasn’t changed at all. He’s riding a little lower in the water, and like he said in the interview, there’s some things he definitely needs to work on.

It’s not like he was going to fall off the map. You don’t go from being the best swimmer in the world to being nothing in the span of 18 or 19 months. He’s fine. He looks great.

What’s next for Phelps?

He needs to sharpen his racing skills because he hasn’t raced in almost two years. It is a completely different feeling when you race than when you do it in practice.

He has to do a lot of racing between now and the USA Swimming National Championships. He will go back and train, and we will probably see him at the Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte.

Who else stood out to you in Mesa?

I thought Nathan Adrian’s 100m freestyle was the best swim. 48.2 in April is pretty impressive. He looked much better, much smoother the whole way.

Katie Ledecky looked great. 4:03 in the women’s 400m freestyle matches the top time in the world this year. She’s right on track.

Ryan Lochte also looked great. He’s going to be really interesting to watch this summer with a new coach, strategy and training technique. He’s training a lot more for 100m and 200m than 400m, which is really going to help him with his speed. It’s a good summer to experiment.