Phelps loses 200 fly again in tuneup

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Michael Phelps emerged from the water with an unfamiliar look of disappointment splashed across his face. A glance at the scoreboard only made things worse.

Even in tuneup races, losing streaks for Phelps are rare.

The planet's most recognized swimmer lost for the third straight time in one of his signature events Sunday night, finishing a hundredth of a second behind Australia's Nicholas D'Arcy in the 200-meter butterfly at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix.

"I would have liked to get the win and end the drought of getting my butt kicked every race, but Nick and I have had some good races over the past couple years and he's definitely a tough competitor and he finishes really strong," Phelps said.

The 14-time Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder was hardly at his dominating best, getting chased down in the final 25 meters. D'Arcy touched the wall a finger tip ahead at 1 minute, 55.39 seconds.

"If you had asked me if I'd win at the 100 mark, I'd say no. If you'd ask me at the 150 mark, I'd say maybe," D'Arcy said. "I snuck a peak out of the corner of my eye and saw him, and I thought, 'Well, I have a chance.'"

Phelps took comfort in the close finish outdoors in simmering Silicon Valley and believes he's on pace to be at full-strength for the world championships next month in Shanghai. Still, Phelps hadn't lost the 200 fly in almost nine years and now has dropped three straight.

The two other defeats this year came to China's Peng Wu in USA Swimming's grand prix series. D'Arcy was second to Phelps at last year's Pan Pacific championships but stopped short of saying he's gaining ground on Phelps.

"It's always great to beat somebody who's possibly the greatest athlete who ever lived," said D'Arcy, who didn't qualify for the worlds because he was recovering from left ankle surgery at the time. "Any chance you get to beat him, you've got to take it. I don't care that it was (one-hundredth) of a second."

Phelps chalks up the losses to part of the training process.

He spent most of the last month in high altitude in Colorado Springs, exhaustingly increasing his workouts. He also will compete in the 100 fly and 200 free in Montreal in two weeks to make some last-ditch adjustments.

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