CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sporting a goatee and an old-school swimsuit, Michael Phelps picked up right where he left off in Beijing.

Two races. Two wins. The world's greatest swimmer left everyone - and
everything - in his wake Friday night at his first meet since a
triumphant Olympics. That nine-month layoff? No problem. That
embarrassing photo of him using a marijuana pipe? Time to let that one
go, too.


None of it seemed to matter when Phelps dove in for
two events less than an hour apart at the Charlotte UltraSwim. He
started with a victory in the 200-metre freestyle and came right back
to touch first in the 100 butterfly, both with times that easily broke
the meet records he set three years ago.

Considering Phelps hadn't bothered to shave down and
he wore a 2004 model leg suit - a real antique in the fast-changing
swimsuit world - it was clear the kickoff to this final stage of his
career is starting way ahead of schedule.

"I was real happy with today," Phelps said. "I think the training is working well."

Coach Bob Bowman, usually Phelps' harshest critic,
was downright giddy when he saw the times. He figured Phelps would be
doing well to swim the 200 free in around 1:48. He went two seconds
faster, even giving a little sample of the straight-arm stroke he plans
to use in the 100 free as he surged toward the wall.

In the fly, Phelps swam the outward lap in 24.6 and
made the return in 27.1 for a total time of 51.72. Doing some quick
math on his worksheet, Bowman calculated that both laps were exactly
0.6 seconds faster than what he did to win the gold medal in Beijing.

Clearly, Phelps hasn't lost that remarkable sense of timing.

"I'm very pleased," Bowman said. "I think both of us are."

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