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-meter 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 2 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."