Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps will probably swim in meet ‘sometime soon,’ coach says

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Michael Phelps is in shape and probably going to swim in a meet “sometime soon,” his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday.

Phelps, 28 and the most decorated Olympian ever with 18 gold medals and 22 total, retired after the London Olympics but re-entered the drug-testing pool last year to be eligible to swim in meets this spring and summer.

Phelps began training again last year for fitness reasons. He’s been at North Baltimore Aquatic Club afternoon practice four to five times per week over the last nine months and recently traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., for a high-altitude camp, Bowman told the newspaper.

“He looks like he is definitely in shape,” Bowman said, four months after saying Phelps was “not anywhere near being able to compete.”

When could we see Phelps swim?

USA Swimming Grand Prix meets continue April 24-26 in Mesa, Ariz.; May 15-18 in Charlotte and June 19-22 in Santa Clara, Calif.

The USA Swimming National Championships are Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, Calif. Nationals serve as the qualifying meet for the 2015 World Championships, the last major international meet before the 2016 Olympics.

“If he swims a meet in the next couple months and does well, he will probably give it a shot in Irvine,” Bowman told the newspaper. “But he doesn’t have to do that to have a shot at the 2016 Olympics.”

It’s been expected that if Phelps came back he would swim shorter distances. Bowman confirmed that, telling the newspaper that Phelps would concentrate on relays and events like the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly.

“If I decide to keep going and swim again, then I’ll compete,” Phelps told The Associated Press in November. ”If I don’t,” he added, letting out a big laugh, “I guess I’ll re-retire. Just don’t compare me to Brett Favre.”

Olympic champion swimmer up for Laureus Sports Award

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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