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Canada's Ryan Cochrane finished 35-hundredths of a second behind U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. ((Itsuo Inouye/Associated Press))

Victoria's Ryan Cochrane pushed American Michael Phelps to the limit in the 400-metre freestyle final at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix on Saturday, finishing a close second to the swimming superstar.

Phelps cruised to an early lead, but Cochrane pushed him hard over the final 100 metres at the outdoor competition. The American edged Cochrane by 35-hundredths of a second to take yet another swimming title.

Cochrane finished in 3:48.40, while Phelps won with a time of 3:48.05. Robert Hurley of Australia was third in 3:48.49.

"I certainly would have liked to have beaten Michael tonight," said Cochrane, 20. "It's a race that I swim on the international scene and he doesn't, so I would think I would be able to give him a strong challenge every time in this event.

"I knew he would be fast in the first part of the race and I just wanted to stay with him. I was aiming for a little faster, but I surprised myself with how much I had left in me at the end. It bodes well for the rest of the summer."

Phelps has rarely entered the 400-metre freestyle, and admits it's one of his weaker events.

"I don't think I've ever hurt that bad after a race. I'm not in enough shape to swim a good 400," he said.

"That's how not to swim a 400 free. Bob [coach Bob Bowman] said go out after it and see what happens. I went out after it and barely hung on."

Bright light for Canada's Olympic swimmers

While Phelps was perhaps the biggest story at the 2008 Olympics, winning a record eight gold medals, Cochrane was the bright light of the Canadian swimming team. He won Canada's only medal in the pool, a bronze in the 1,500 freestyle.

Three other Canadians reached the podium during the meet.

In the men's 200-metre backstroke, Matt Hawes of Vancouver finished third in 2:00.30 behind winner Ryan Lochte of the U.S., (1:56.83) and Australia's Ashley Delaney (1:58.60).

Brent Hayden of Vancouver finished third with a time of 22.20 in the 50-metre freestyle, behind winner Nathan Adrian of the U.S. (22.09) and George Bovell of Trinidad and Tobago (22.12).

Katy Murdoch of Calgary was third in the women's 100-metre backstroke, behind Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe and American Mary DeScenza.

With files from The Associated Press