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Phelps set to compete again

MICHAEL Phelps feels he has something to prove, mostly to himself, as he looks to avenge two recent losses in the pool at this weekend's the Santa Clara Invitational Grand Prix in California.

Last month, 14-time Olympic gold medalist Phelps was beaten by a couple of world record holders in the 100-meter freestyle and backstroke events at the Charlotte Grand Prix, his first meet since capturing a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games. He also won two events - the 100 butterfly and 200 free.

"I can't stand to lose, no matter what stroke it is," he said on Thursday after practice at the outdoor pool where wind whipped up the water. "I can always turn a negative into a positive. If I'm disappointed, it's going to motivate me."

Phelps is back in serious training, having spent the last three weeks at high-altitude in Colorado. He's got structure again in his daily life, and that's just the way coach Bob Bowman likes it.

"He's now back training really well," Bowman said. "We're still in the experimental stage with his freestyle stroke, so you never know what you're going to get."

Phelps unveiled a new windmill-like motion in his freestyle stroke at Charlotte, mixing it with his normal bent-at-the-elbow technique to pick up speed. "I'm swimming with an open mind," he said.

The nine-month layoff that ended last month was the longest of Phelps' career, though he had intended to come back earlier.

Those plans were derailed after he was photographed using a marijuana pipe, a picture that wound up on the front page of a British tabloid, and he was handed a three-month suspension by USA Swimming.

His return in Charlotte attracted a gaggle of media, where he faced relentless scrutiny and questions about his life out of the pool. Things are decidedly more laid-back at Santa Clara, a low-key meet that has attracted some of the world's best swimmers over the last 42 years.

"I feel at home and more comfortable," Phelps said. "I'd like to move forward and be able to look back at the training we've done this year and say we got something out of it."


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