Berlin - Multiple Olympic gold medallist and world champion Michael Phelps insisted on Friday that he was in his best shape since his historic 2008 Olympic year.
The American, who captured six gold and two bronze at the Athens Games in 2004, and eight gold at Beijing in 2008, takes part in the World Cup short course event in Berlin at the weekend, having started his season in Moscow on Tuesday.
After Berlin, he'll head home where the build-up to the 2012 Olympics begins in earnest.
"I'm in best form since 2008. I'm a lot happier and in better shape than last year. In 2009, I took six months off after the Games. I was in the worst shape of my life," said Phelps.
The 26-year-old started his season in Moscow where he was defeated by Germany's Paul Biedermann in the 200m freestyle.
Biedermann, the short course world record holder, clocked 1:43.15 to finish 0.16 seconds ahead of the American swimming legend.
However, Phelps then claimed the 200m backstroke with a time of 1:53.24, finishing 0.28 seconds ahead of second-placed local favourite Artem Dubovskoy.
"The important thing is not what happens today but down the road. I have time to change things and prepare and get ready. Hopefully I'll improve small things.
"Each meet is going to help me prepare for next year."
Phelps, who has 16 Olympics medals, also said that beating the all-time Olympic medal haul of 18, held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, is not high on his list of priorities.
"To tell you the truth I never knew about it until early this year. I focus on my own goals. I can't control what other people can do," he added.