x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Phelps sinks at Santa Clara but hope floats

It is an event in which Phelps had not lost in almost nine years until this season.

Michael Phelps finished a tenth of a second behind winner Nicholas D'Arcy in the men's 200m butterfly final race at Santa Clara.
Michael Phelps finished a tenth of a second behind winner Nicholas D'Arcy in the men's 200m butterfly final race at Santa Clara.

SANTA CLARA, California // 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 conditioning races, losing streaks for Phelps are rare.

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

It is an event in which Phelps had not lost in almost nine years until this season.

"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 a tough competitor and he finishes really strong," Phelps said.

The 14-time Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder was chased down in the final 25 metres. D'Arcy touched the wall a finger tip ahead at 1min 55.39secs.

Phelps took comfort in the close finish and believes he is on pace to be at full strength for the world championships next month in Shanghai.

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 is gaining ground on Phelps.

"It's always great to beat somebody who's possibly the greatest athlete who ever lived," said D'Arcy.

Phelps spent most of the last month training at high altitude in Colorado Springs.