Shanghai - US legend Michael Phelps admitted on Tuesday he was getting "killed" by team-mate Ryan Lochte after a shattering defeat in the 200m freestyle but insisted he was back on course for next year's Olympics.
Phelps, a 14-time Olympic gold medallist, looked set to regain his world title when he led over the first 100m in Shanghai, but he could not live with a powerful finish from Lochte, who beat him into second place by 0.35sec.
It extended a disappointing start to the world championships for Phelps after the United States suffered a rare defeat in the 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday, but he remains on course for a possible five golds.
"I've been getting killed," a rueful Phelps said of his rivalry with Lochte, who beat him twice at last year's national championships and in Texas in January.
But he added that despite another loss, his career was back on track after a rocky spell in which he lost focus following his record eight-gold haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"I'm coming back around to where I'd like to be, actually in the race, involved in the race and not just getting destroyed every time I'm in the water," he said.
"Just really being able to come in and race is something I'm very pleased with. Being able to be a second faster than I was last year and about a second-and-a-half off my personal best time was all I can really ask for right now," he added.
"With the training that's happened over the last six to eight months, that's all I had in the tank.
"I would have loved to win but I think this is something that is going to help me a lot for the next year. I think I let Ryan get away too much in the third 50 and that's something that I wish I wouldn't have done."
The 26-year-old took the blame for his faltering performances in recent years, saying he had not trained enough but said he was "coming back to my old self".
And the American, who also finished second in his men's 200m butterfly semi on Tuesday to secure a place in Wednesday's final, said he was happier than when he was beaten in the same race at the 2009 Rome worlds.
"I just think I'm in a better state of mind now than I was then and really probably better than I ever have been. I guess that I'm happy to be back in the water again," Phelps said.
"I've had that feeling the last six to eight months but before that I probably haven't had that feeling since '08," he said.
"I think I know where I can get and I think I know what it takes to get back there. I know I can go faster than that. That's not even a question," Phelps added. "I know what I need to do. That's sort of the bottom line."