Michael Phelps qualifies for fifth Olympics

Michael Phelps, who has 18 Olympic gold medals in his career, clocked 1min 54.84sec in the 200m butterfly at the US swimming trials to become the first man to make a fifth US Olympic swimming team.

Michael Phelps is also chasing Olympic berths in the 100m fly and 200m individual medley.   -  Getty Images (File Photo)

Michael Phelps qualified for a milestone fifth Olympics on Wednesday, booking his ticket to the Rio Games with a 200m butterfly victory at the US swimming trials. Phelps, whose record 22 Olympic medals include an astonishing 18 gold, clocked 1min 54.84sec to triumph over Tom Shields and become the first man to make a fifth US Olympic swimming team.

Shields finished in 1:55.81, pushing Phelps all the way. "With everything that's happened, being able to come back - this was probably harder than any swim I've had in my life," said Phelps, whose comeback after a brief post-London retirement was disrupted by a drink-driving arrest followed by a stint in rehab.

"I didnt feel good the first two swims, didn't really feel that good tonight," added Phelps, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Thursday. "But getting on the team was the most important thing, and that's the only thing I had to do tonight."

Phelps led at every turn, but Shields stuck with him and was on his shoulder coming off the turn for home. "I tried to take it out and just pray to God that I was going to hang on," Phelps said.

The 200m fly was the event in which a teenaged Phelps set his first world record, and his world mark of 1:51.51 - set at the tail end of the bodysuit era in 2009 - still stands.

Regaining the Olympic title he surrendered to Chad le Clos in London, in an event he long considered his baby, figures to be a strong motivator for Phelps in Rio, although he acknowledged the competition would be fierce. I n addition to le Clos, he can expect a strong challenge from Hungary's Laszlo Cseh and Japan's Daiya Seto and Masato Sakai - the top three in the world rankings.

Phelps is also chasing Olympic berths in the 100m fly and 200m individual medley - both events he has won at three consecutive Games.