MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The lead-up to the Olympics has started to get serious for the swimmers.

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Michael Phelps is excited as ever, in a peaceful, confident place he hardly could have foreseen a year ago.

Phelps is the headliner among a slew of stars on the slate for the first of seven Arena Pro Swim Series events that kick off the pre-Rio race season Thursday at the University of Minnesota.

Phelps said Wednesday after some warmups in the pool that he's "thrilled" to be starting the competition leading into Olympic trials next summer and "kind of giddy to see what happens at the end."