Michael Phelps is not unbeatable.
Not when he’s going against Aaron Peirsol.
The world-record holder and two-time Olympic champion handed Phelps his first defeat in almost a year, winning the 100-meter backstroke at the Charlotte UltraSwim on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Wearing his new Arena suit, Peirsol got off to a strong start and touched in 53.32 seconds. Phelps was trailing by more than a half-second at the turn and had no chance to make that up against one of the world’s greatest backstrokers, taking second in 53.79.
Phelps will remember this one.
“No matter who I’m racing, I hate to lose,” he said. “Aaron and I have had a number of battles back and forth. … That’s the fun part about racing Aaron – you know he’s always going to be there. He’s a racer, he’s a competitor. He’s someone I like to race.”
Phelps’ last defeat in a final came exactly 364 days ago, when Peirsol beat him in the 200 backstroke at Santa Clara, Calif., during the run-up to the Olympics, according to USA Swimming.
Phelps didn’t swim the backstroke in Beijing – it didn’t fit into the schedule that produced a record eight gold medals and made him the most successful Olympian. But he’s changing things up as he looks ahead to this summer’s world championships and the 2012 London Games.
The 100 backstroke is one of his main targets.
Bring it on, Peirsol said.
“By no means is anybody giving anything to anybody,” said Peirsol, who set a world record in the 100 back while winning his second straight Olympic gold in the event at Beijing. “I definitely wanted to win that race.”
Phelps is swimming five events in Charlotte – his first meet since Beijing – but only two were on his Olympic program. He won them both Friday night, the 200 freestyle and 100 fly.
Johnson in front
Defending champion Zach Johnson matched the La Cantera course record with a 10-under-par 60 to take a three-stroke lead in the suspended third round of the rain-soaked Texas Open in San Antonio.
Johnson holed out from 84 yards for an eagle on the par-7 seventh and had eight birdies on the soggy course in the round interrupted by a five-hour rain delay. He tapped in for par on 18 seconds after the horn blew and darkness suspended play.
Paul Goydos and three-time champion Justin Leonard were 12 under through 12 holes. Fourteen players will finish the round today before starting the final 18, when they’ll re-pair.
•Pettersen, Oh tied for lead: Suzann Pettersen and Ji Young Oh shot 3-under 69s, taking a one-stroke lead over Brittany Lincicome after three rounds of the LPGA Sybase Classic at Clifton, N.J.
Pettersen and Oh had 54-hole totals of 12-under 204 at Upper Montclair Country Club. Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie shot 69s and were three shots behind the leaders in the $2 million tournament.
Wendy Ward of Edwall, Wash., shot a 72 and is tied for 43rd.
•Jones, Fergus lead suspended event: Gene Jones and Keith Fergus were in the lead at 10 under when play was suspended by rain in the second round of the Regions Charity Classic at Hoover, Ala.
Rain had halted play for four hours in the morning and it was suspended with the threat of storms looming after Jones was 7 under through 14 holes in his second round. Fergus had finished the front nine in 4 under to join him atop the leaderboard.
Federer, Nadal in final
Roger Federer will face Rafael Nadal for a championship.
On clay. In Spain.
The two rivals set up their first clash since the Australian Open when Nadal saved three match points to beat Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9) in Madrid.
Playing their fourth match this year, they needed a Masters Series record 4 hours, 3 minutes to decide matters at the Magic Box tennis center. Federer beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4 in their semifinal.
Top-ranked Nadal’s 33rd straight win on clay lifted him into his seventh final this season, but he will be nursing a right knee injury into today’s match.
Federer has lost his past five matches against Nadal, including the finals at the French Open, Wimbledon and Australia in February.
Earlier, top-ranked Dinara Safina beat Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-2 to set up a final against teenager Caroline Wozniacki, who put away former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo 7-6 (1), 6-3.
•Drummondville wins at Memorial Cup: Drummondville Voltigeurs forward Maxime Frenette buried a rebound past Windsor Spitfires goaltender Andrew Engelage at 8:56 of the extra frame to give the QMJHL Champions a 3-2 overtime win the team’s first game at the 2009 Memorial Cup in Rimouski, Quebec.
Drummondville faces the Kelowna Rockets on Monday night.
•Ward wins, eyes title shot: Andre Ward remained unbeaten and stayed on course for a 168-pound title shot this year with the biggest victory of his pro career, a unanimous decision over Colombia’s Edison Miranda in Oakland, Calif.
Ward (19-0, 12 KOs), the 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, showed resilience in fighting 11 1/2 rounds with a cut over his left eye caused by a head-butt from the free-swinging Miranda (32-4).
•Italian Fragomeni retains title: Giacobbe Fragomeni retained his WBC cruiserweight title, earning a draw with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk at Rome, in his first defense.
•Belarusian takes stage at Giro d’Italia: Kanstantsin Siutsou of Belarus won the eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia in a late solo breakaway, and Danilo Di Luca of Italy added 8 seconds to his overall lead by finishing third in Bergamo, Italy.
Di Luca leads Thomas Lovkvist of Sweden by 13 seconds in the overall standings, with Michael Rogers of Australia third, 44 seconds back. Lance Armstrong’s Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer was fourth, 51 seconds behind. Armstrong remained 25th overall.
•Clement’s hurdles win wiped out: Kerron Clement ran what would have been the fastest time of the outdoor season in the 400 hurdles, but his time was wiped out because of misplaced hurdles at the Adidas Track Classic in Carson, Calif.
Clement finished in 48.38 seconds, edging Olympic champion Angelo Taylor in the event, but had the time scratched late in the evening because the eighth hurdle was lined up too close to the seventh.
Allyson Felix finished in first place in her first 200 of the season in 22.66 seconds.
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