Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps

Ryan Lochte inspired by Michael Phelps’ return (video)

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Ryan Lochte said he questioned his future in swimming after a November knee injury, but hearing rumors last fall of Michael Phelps‘ return motivated him.

“I was going through a rough patch after worlds last summer,” Lochte told NBC News. “I took a lot of time off, plus my injury. I almost didn’t come back to the sport of swimming. Then I started hearing rumors of him being in the water, training. I was like, you know what, this is good. This is good for the sport. It’s good for me. We push each other all the time. He knows I’m training hard. I know he’s training hard.”

Lochte, like Phelps, is scheduled to swim in the Arena Grand Prix at Mesa, Ariz., beginning Thursday. Lochte is back after going against doctors’ suggestions racing in Orlando in February, about three and a half months after he reportedly tore his left MCL and sprained his ACL after a teenage girl ran to him, he caught her and they both fell. His knee hit a curb, Lochte’s publicist said.

Lochte said his injured knee hurt after swimming in February, that he pushed it too hard.

The 11-time Olympic medalist is back now and ready to race against Phelps, just like he has at the last three Games. Lochte was not surprised by Phelps’ comeback after 20 months away from competition. He called it as far back as 2012.

“He announced his retirement and everything,” Lochte said. “I was like, don’t kid yourself. You’re going to miss it. You’re going to want to come back. You’re going to miss that limelight. … Once you’ve done something for so long every day pretty much your entire life, then, all of a sudden, it just disappears, you’re going to miss it. Hey, I was right.”

Lochte said there’s no doubt in his mind Phelps will post fast times.

“I don’t think he’s taken really a break,” Lochte said. “I think he’s been in the water. I think he’s just kidding everyone. That’s my guess.”

Phelps no longer with Speedo

Mikaela Shiffrin, with uncharacteristic show of emotion, moves one shy of record

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Mikaela Shiffrin has described her subdued victory celebrations as dorky. Sunday’s was anything but.

The youngest Olympic slalom champion pumped both fists, then just her right fist, accompanied with screams, after winning her 11th straight World Cup slalom race in Sestriere, Italy.

“I tried to have some fun in the second run, I don’t know,” Shiffrin said three minutes later. “Are you guys having fun out here? Crowd, scream!”

Shiffrin had the fastest time in both runs, winning by 1.09 seconds over Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova. Swiss Wendy Holdener was third.

However, her lead was cut to .07 at a split midway through her second run. She stormed through the final gates to win comfortably.

FULL RESULTS | RACE REPLAY

Shiffrin is now one win shy of the women’s record for consecutive World Cup wins in any discipline. Swiss Vreni Schneider won 12 straight slaloms from 1988-90. Shiffrin can match it in the next slalom Dec. 29 in Semmering, Austria.

Shiffrin has said her streak shouldn’t really count, since she missed five straight slaloms last season due to injury.

With Sunday’s win, Shiffrin increased her lead in the World Cup overall standings to 105 points over Swiss Lara Gut, the defending champion, after nine of a scheduled 37 races.

The women’s World Cup continues with a combined, downhill and super-G in Val d’Isere, France, next weekend.

Olympic champions Lindsey VonnAnna Veith and Julia Mancuso have yet to make their season debuts, all out due to injuries.

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Tucker West wins again after strange luge World Cup week

Tucker West, of the United States, celebrates after winning the men's luge World Cup race on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Lake Placid, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Those competing in World Cup luge races Saturday night got only one run instead of the customary two, because delays in getting the sleds to the track forced some schedule changes.

Tucker West of the U.S. apparently didn’t mind.

West won the men’s World Cup race for the second straight weekend, finishing in 50.109 seconds for his third career victory on the circuit. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was second in 50.153 seconds, and Andi Langenhan of Germany was third in 50.243 seconds.

“He is on top of the world,” USA Luge women’s racer Summer Britcher said of West, as he draped himself in an American flag on the podium after the race. “You can see it.”

West’s win capped a strange World Cup week in Whistler, where most athletes waited around all week and were unable to train while their sleds were stuck in transit because of a snowstorm.

“This was a crazy week,” West said.

West didn’t get on the Whistler ice for practice until Saturday. John Fennell didn’t even get that.

Fennell, like all other athletes who rely on Nations Cup qualifying races to get a chance at being in the World Cup field, couldn’t get on the track at the Whistler Sliding Center this week. Shipping problems meant most competitors planning to race in Whistler didn’t have their sleds until Friday night, leading to a very condensed World Cup schedule — with all training and races being squeezed into Saturday.

To make that happen, Nations Cup runs were canceled.

That meant a lot of sliders were in Whistler this week for nothing.

“I feel terrible for all of the athletes who have traveled to Whistler who will receive no time on the ice and will only be allowed to be spectators,” USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer said.

Mazdzer didn’t like the move by International Luge Federation officials, and teammate Fennell was maybe the biggest casuality. Fennell used to race for Canada, knows the Whistler track well and this weekend was a legitimate chance for him to collect some critical World Cup points that could have gotten his first year with the Americans rolling.

Instead, he got nothing. No points, and now probably no chance of qualifying for the world championships later this season.

“I’m feeling angry, frustrated, upset,” Fennell said. “I don’t think it’s the right decision. Zero World Cup points is huge for me.”

Fennell had his sled with him in Whistler all week, while many sliders didn’t get theirs until Friday night — a truck involved in the shipping of sleds from last weekend’s World Cup in Lake Placid, New York got stuck in a snowstorm and it took several days to get the sleds rerouted and on the move again. But since so many sliders did not have equipment, Fennell and others who had their sleds were told to keep them off the ice.

“This was my best chance to do well this season and show coaches and the organization what I’m capable of, and it was a waste of time, effort and money,” Fennell said. “I’m walking away empty-handed.”

Canada’s Alex Gough walked away in a very different mood. Gough won the women’s race Saturday night on her home track, finishing the single-heat competition in 38.796 seconds. Germans took second and third, with Natalie Geisenberger finishing in 38.848 and Tatjana Huefner in 38.850.

For the U.S., Emily Sweeney was fourth, Erin Hamlin sixth and Britcher took seventh.

“This was a very interesting week,” Sweeney said.

In doubles, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany prevailed in 38.542 seconds. Fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were second in 38.570, and Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria were third in 38.642.

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