US star Michael Phelps, still serving a six-month competitive ban but eying the 2016 Olympics, recorded a world-class time in an unofficial exhibition swim, Swimming World reported on Friday.
Phelps, an 18-time Olympic swim champion, is scheduled to make his competitive return from the drink driving ban next month at a meet in Arizona, but showed his fitness Thursday at the US short course championships in Austin, Texas.
Phelps swam the 200-yard individual medley in 1min 40.84secs, what would have been the seventh-fastest time ever clocked over the distance had it counted, with split times of 21.58 seconds, 46.87 seconds and 1:16.63.
The time was only .26 of a second off Phelps' career-best time in the yardage event, clocked in 2010.
Phelps was banned for a drink driving arrest last September and withdrew from his place on the US team for this year's world championship meet in Russia.
But USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus told ESPN this week that it is possible Phelps could be reinstated for the world meet, the only major gathering of global swim stars between now and next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Phelps, 29, won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and retired after the 2012 London Olympics with a career record 22 Olympic medals, only to make a comeback last year.