OMAHA, Neb. — Michael Phelps surged to the wall and then whipped around to spot his time.
That number wasn’t really important.
The only thing that mattered was No. 5.
The most decorated athlete in Olympic history is Rio bound.
Phelps became the first U.S. male swimmer to qualify for five Olympics with a victory in the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. swimming trials Wednesday night, another huge milestone in the water but even more significant, given what has happened away from the pool.
A second drunken-driving arrest. A re-evaluation of his life. An impending marriage. And his first child.
“With everything that’s happened and being able to come back, that was probably harder than any swim I’ve had in my life,” Phelps said.
With 7-week-old Boomer in the arms of his mother at the CenturyLink Center, Phelps cruised to a victory that meant as much personally as all those triumphs that came before. The infant wore noise-canceling headphones adorned with American flags so he wouldn’t be startled by the huge roar that went up when his daddy touched the wall first.
Phelps reflected on his stumbles since London, most notably a second drunken driving arrest that prompted him to take a whole new look at his life. He reconnected with his long-estranged father, got engaged, gave up alcohol and committed himself to closing his career with a flourish.