Phelps makes impressive return to competition

US swimming star Michael Phelps participated in Charlotte to his first competition since the Beijing Olympic games. Despite a 9 months break, he managed to win both the 200 m freestyle and the 100 m butterfly.


REUTERS - Michael Phelps was quickly back to his dominating best, powering to a pair of victories in less than an hour on his return to competition at the Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix on Friday.

Back on the blocks for the first time since his record eight gold medal haul at the Beijing Olympics, Phelps won the 200 metre freestyle and 100m butterfly in meet record times.

Trading in his hi-tech LZR swimsuit for a throw-back model first introduced in 2004, Phelps was out of the blocks quick in the 200 and led from start to finish, touching first in one minute, 46.02 seconds.

While well off his world record time of 1:42.96 set in Beijing, the swim was still a remarkable effort following the American's tumultuous nine-month layoff, which included a three-month suspension from USA Swimming after being photographed inhaling from a pipe used for smoking marijuana.

A little more than 50 minutes later, the 23-year-old American was right back on the starting block, powering to the wall in 51.72, crushing a field that included five-time Olympic gold medallist Aaron Peirsol.

Phelps said his training was working well, despite waking up feeling "weird" before the race and not knowing what to expect of his first hit-out in nine months.

"I got in and I wasn't really feeling that great in warm up. I was thinking I would just go out there and swim as fast as I can," he told reporters.

"I think it was feeling kind of weird this being my first final since Beijing.

"But it didn't matter how I felt I was excited just to race ... I think that was the most important thing because I still have that drive and passion to race."

The American said he was ahead of schedule in coming back to competition. "This is an excellent start. Hopefully we can build off this and get ready for the summer," he said.

Phelps' coach Bob Bowman was also impressed by his prize pupil's performance.

"I'm very pleased, I think both us are," enthused Bowman. "I'm a little surprised ... I thought the 100 fly was really impressive, he swam with such control.

"Mentally he is the best ever. I could tell after the first prelim swim this morning the switch was flipped ... I think he was very fired up."

Phelps will pull double duty again on Saturday, swimming in two new events, the 50m free and 100m backstroke.

In the former, Phelps is expected to use the new straight-arm stroke that he and Bowman have been experimenting with as he looks to extend his dominance to the sprint events.

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