Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps swims butterfly in freestyle race, misses finals

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Michael Phelps swam butterfly in a 50m freestyle heat and finished seventh at the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Ariz., on Friday, his second and final event at his first meet since the London Olympics.

Phelps clocked 24.06 seconds and did not qualify for the evening finals, placing 42nd overall out of 89 swimmers across all heats. Olympic 100m freestyle champion Nathan Adrian won Phelps’ heat in 22.75.

Phelps made a rare appearance in lane 8, wearing a white cap and a dark jammer swimsuit. He was not expected to have one of the best times swimming a slower stroke than everybody else.

Phelps is entered for the next USA Swimming Grand Prix event in Charlotte, N.C., from May 15-18, said his coach, Bob Bowman.

“I think it’s a good starting point,” Phelps said of Mesa. “Just being able to get some races back under my belt. The schedule that was today wasn’t really ideal for what I should swim at this very moment.”

The 22-time Olympic medalist has unretired, but he hasn’t committed to making a bid for the Rio 2016 Olympics, which would be his fifth Games.

On Thursday, Phelps finished second to longtime rival Ryan Lochte in a 100m butterfly race, his first competitive final in 20 months. Phelps was the fastest qualifier in the preliminary heats and was two tenths behind Lochte in the final.

Another Michael set to make splash at Mesa Grand Prix

Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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