Phelps suffers 2nd loss

CHARLOTTE: Michael Phelps was beaten again at the Charlotte UltraSwim on Sunday night, losing to Frederick Bousquet of France in the 100-metre freestyle.

Phelps touched nearly a full second behind Bousquet, world-record holder in the 50 free, after losing his first final in nearly a year. Aaron Peirsol beat Phelps in the 200 backstroke on Saturday.

Bousquet went out strong, ensuring he had a big enough lead to hold off Phelps at the end - even as Beijing Olympics star Phelps experimented with a new straight-arm stroke that is supposed to provide more speed.

The Frenchman touched in 48.22 seconds, while Phelps never really had a chance while finishing second in 49.04.

"The biggest thing that killed me were my turns and my finishes," Phelps said. "I'm not disappointed with that time, but finish was awful. There's small things I need to work on. But overall, it was a good meet." He was competing for the first time since capturing a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last August. The nine-month layoff was the longest of his career, though he had intended to come back earlier - after being photographed using a marijuana pipe, a picture that wound up on the front page of a British tabloid, he was given a three-month suspension by USA Swimming.

The sanction ended May 5, and Phelps was eager to start competing again. He entered five events at Charlotte and won the first two, the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, both of which were part of his gold-medal haul in China.

But Phelps still has some work to do in the 200 backstroke and 100 freestyle, two events he hopes to add to his repertoire while dropping several races he won at Athens and Beijing. It's all part of his plan to take on new challenges - and stay motivated - heading into his final Olympics at London.

Nothing gets Phelps going like a loss. Or two.

"This is something that will motivate me to fix those things over the next few weeks," he said. "I'm kind of mad at myself. I wanted to break 49. I was five-hundredths off it with the two stupid mistakes I made." Phelps was kicking himself for having to take an extra stroke going into the turn, and again at the finish.

He started out with the standard stroke - elbow bent - before switching to the windmill-like motion for the second half of the opening lap. After the flip, Phelps went back to the regular stroke, then switched again to the straight arm for the final 15 meters.

Bousquet was amazed.

"Did he do that? Really? Whoa," said the Frenchman, who last month became the first swimmer to break 21 seconds in the 50 free.

"To go 49.0, which is a pretty decent time in season, and change up the strokes a couple of times during the race, that's pretty impressive." All things considered, Phelps said he was pleased with his performance. In addition to the two wins and two runner-up finishes, he entered the 50 free to get in some extra work with his new stroke. He actually qualified for the final of that event - barely - but scratched.

"For my first meet back, I have no complaints," he said.

"We're on the right track. This is exactly where I want to be." Bousquet was a late addition to the four-day meet. He doesn't usually swim the 100 free in season, but couldn't pass up a chance to go against Phelps.

"Tonight's race helped me get motivated a lot," the French star said. "The fact he was in the race and the fact we were next to each other, too, definitely helped me to get motivated and get my head into it."