INDIANAPOLIS: Michael Phelps made his first appearance at the US Nationals and clocked the fastest times with two routine swims in morning preliminary heats on Wednesday.
Phelps, looking fit having shed the 17 pounds he put on following his record gold medal haul at the Beijing Olympics, began by posting the top time in the 200 metres freestyle.
The 24-year-old American was back in the pool less than an hour later to touch first in the 200m butterfly and he can clinch berths in the US team for this month's world championships in Rome with top-two finishes in the evening finals.
"Typical prelim swims," Phelps told reporters. "I'm probably happier about the 200 fly, maybe I just needed one to get going.
"Feel good for tonight, we'll try the bigger suit tonight for both races.
"I'm going to wear the full suit tonight.
"I tried it out in Montreal and I really liked it.
"That's the first time I ever tried it and it was a fairly decent swim so going to try it and see what happens."
After a tumultuous nine months off which included a three-month suspension from USA Swimming when he was photographed inhaling from a pipe used for smoking marijuana, Phelps returned to competition in Charlotte in May.
While his transition from the world's greatest all-round swimmer to sprinter is far from complete, Phelps is quickly coming to grips with new events and a new stroke as he lays the foundations for his 2012 London Olympic program.
After a comeback that produced as many defeats as wins, Phelps was back to his dominating best, posting the fastest time of one minute, 46.31 seconds in the 200m free and easing to a comfortable win in his 200m fly heat in 1:55.36.
Just two weeks ago in Montreal, Phelps clocked a time of 50.48 in the 100m fly, the third fastest ever and just .08 off the world record, while swimming in the full suit in that event for the first time.