Michael Phelps Wins Gold in 100-Meter Butterfly at Pan Pacific Championships

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2014

Michael Phelps of the U.S. dives in during his men's 4 x 100m freestyle final at the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Gold Coast, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.  Australia won the race ahead of the U.S. and Brazil.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Michael Phelps' comeback is starting to pick up some serious steam.

The 22-time Olympic medalist (18 golds) took first in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships on Saturday, which are taking place in Gold Coast, Australia. The victory was his first individual gold medal since returning to international competition.

He won his first international gold since his 2012 post-London Olympics retirement in the 4x200-meter relay team on Friday.

The Associated Press (via ESPN) reports the 29-year-old American beat out countryman Ryan Lochte for the top spot on the podium with a time of 51.29 seconds. Lochte, 30, took the silver in 51.67, and Japan's Hirofumi Ikebata captured bronze in 52.50.

Xavi Torres of Eurosport passed along a picture of Phelps watching the American flag get raised, which has become quite common over the years:

Phelps won gold in the same event at the 2012 Summer Games with a time of 51.21, just 0.08 faster than his most recent triumph.

Phil Lutton of The Sydney Morning Herald passed along comments from Phelps after the race: "It definitely feels good to have that confidence back, to be able to do it in an individual event. I guess it's kind of typical, I'm still in that little rut of doing the same time over and over again."

Phelps added: "But it's the same as I said earlier, what it does is really just guarantee me a spot on the World Championships team next summer, which is the biggest thing and the most important thing."

When Phelps came out of retirement, expectations weren't sky-high. He won eight medals in Athens in 2004 (six golds), eight in Beijing in 2008 (eight golds) and just six in London in 2012 (four golds).

Add in 18 months away from the sport, and there were obvious question marks. Looking forward, Phelps has proved he can still compete with the world's best.

Phelps will be 31 when the Rio de Janeiro Olympics are held in August 2016. At this rate, he'll have a serious chance to add to his Olympic medal tally if he competes.