CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two days, two losses for Michael Phelps.
Phelps was beaten again at the Charlotte UltraSwim, losing to French star Frederick Bousquet in the 100-metre freestyle Sunday night.
Phelps touched nearly a full second behind Bousquet, world-record holder in the 50 free, after losing his first final in nearly a year the previous night. Aaron Peirsol beat Phelps in the 100 backstroke.
Bousquet went out strong, ensuring he had a big enough lead to hold off Phelps at the end - even as the winningest Olympian ever 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 and finished second in 49.04.
''The biggest thing that killed me were my turns and my finishes,'' said Phelps, who holds the American record in the 100 free at 47.51. ''I'm not disappointed with that time, but the finish was awful. There's small things I need to work on. But overall, it was a good meet.''
The North Carolina meet was his first for Phelps since capturing a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. The nine-month layoff was the longest of Phelps' career.
He had intended to come back earlier but, 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 free and 100 back, both of which were part of his gold-medal haul in China.
But Phelps still has some work to do in the 200 back and 100 free, 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.
''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.''
In other action, three Canadians earned medals Sunday.
Lindsay Seeman of Newmarket, Ont., and Annie Harrison of Oakville, Ont., both reached the podium in the women's 200 backstroke. Elizabeth Beise of the U.S., won the gold medal in two minutes and 11.88 seconds, followed by Seeman at 2:13.63 and Harrison in 2:14.28.
Barbara Jardin of Montreal was fifth in 2:15.27.
It was Seeman's second medal of the competition. On Thursday, the 2008 Olympic team member won a bronze medal in the 800 freestyle.
Montreal's Victoria Poon stepped on the podium for the fourth time this week, finishing third in the women's 100 freestyle in 55.61. Amanda Weir of the U.S., won the race in 54.06 and Christine Magnuson of the U.S., was second in 55.27.
Phelps was kicking himself for having to take an extra stroke going into the turn, and again at the finish. Plus, he was experimenting with a straight-arm stroke that he believes will help him be more competitive in the sprint events.
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. ''That's even more impressive.
''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 covered the opening lap in a blistering 22.83 seconds, 0.99 ahead of Phelps, and didn't lose much of his advantage on his return to the wall.
''Whenever you race that guy, you can't count on your back-end speed to beat him,'' Bousquet said. ''I knew I had to use my strength, which is my speed, and go out as fast as I could.''
Phelps knows what he needs to work on.
''I need some of Fred's first-half speed,'' the American marvelled. ''He sure takes it out.''
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.''
--With Files From The Canadian Press