Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps coming out of retirement

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Michael Phelps is expected to swim competitively for the first time since the London Olympics next week.

Phelps was among the headliners in a USA Swimming release previewing the Mesa Grand Prix in Arizona from April 24-26. Phelps intends to swim the 50m and 100m freestyles and 100m butterfly in Mesa, according to reports citing Phelps’ agent and coach.

“I think he’s just going to test the waters a little bit and see how it goes,” said Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, according to The Associated Press. “I wouldn’t say it’s a full-fledged comeback.”

Bowman said Phelps is “pretty far” from being in top form.

“He’s gotten back into good shape since September,” he told the AP. “He can give a good effort and certainly not be embarrassed. He’s in enough shape to swim competitively.”

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On March 25, Bowman said Phelps would probably swim in a meet “sometime soon.” Phelps had retired after breaking the all-time Olympic medals record at the 2012 Olympics but re-entered the drug testing pool last year, leaving him the option of returning to competition this spring.

“I think it’ll be great for the sport to have Michael compete again,” Bowman said, according to USA Today, adding that they decided Phelps would swim in Mesa a few months ago. “We really don’t have any expectations for what might happen. We just want to have some fun with it and see how it goes.”

Time will tell if Phelps, 28, enters the U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., in August, a selection meet for the year’s biggest international meet, the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia, and the 2015 World Championships.

“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent on the radar,” Bowman told the AP. “After Mesa, we’re going to sit down and talk about it.”

Fellow 2012 Olympic champions Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky are also expected to be in the Mesa field.

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Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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