Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps qualifies for A finals, scratches one event in Charlotte

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Michael Phelps earned spots in the top-seeded finals of both of his events but is dropping out of one of them at the Charlotte Grand Prix on Friday.

Phelps, in the second meet of his comeback after retiring following the 2012 Olympics, finished second overall in the preliminaries of the 100m butterfly and eighth in the 200m freestyle.

He will swim his final race in Charlotte in the 100m fly final on Friday night after opting to scratch out of the 200m free final.

Phelps was second in his 100m butterfly heat in 53.26 seconds and second overall across all seven top-seeded heats, wearing a white cap, gray waist-to-knee swim trunks and a full beard. He was .42 slower than his 100m fly prelim time at his first comeback meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24.

An hour earlier, Phelps touched the wall third in his 200m freestyle heat and ninth overall. He moved into the eight-man A final, though, after Olympic and world 200m free champion Yannick Agnel was disqualified for a false start in the same heat, according to media in Charlotte.

“Now we have some real picture of, a little bit, where he is in [the 200m free],” said Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman. “I think he definitely can go better.”

Phelps clocked 1:51.69 in the 200m free, nearly six seconds slower than his winning time at the 2012 Olympic Trials (he didn’t swim it at the 2012 Olympics). In Charlotte, he was beaten by Michael Klueh (1:51.52) and Agnel (1:51.61), before Agnel was disqualified.

Phelps, the 2008 Olympic 200m free champion, was swimming the freestyle stroke (and the 200m distance) for the first time in competition since coming out of his post-London Olympics retirement. He swam butterfly for 100m and 50m at his first return meet in Arizona in April.

His next meet could be the Santa Clara Grand Prix in California, June 19-22.

“All in all, we’re pleased,” Bowman said. “He hadn’t done a 200 in a while, you’re not training any doubles [for two events in one session]. You’re just trying to get in there, see what it’s like. I think he did a very good job of that.”

Charlotte Grand Prix preview, swimmers to watch

Nathan Chen holds off Yuzuru Hanyu to win first Grand Prix

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen opened the Grand Prix season by beating Olympic gold-medal favorite Yuzuru Hanyu.

Chen, 18, held off Hanyu at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, totaling 293.79 points to win by 3.02 over the Japanese megastar. Full scores are here.

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in a strong but imperfect free skate for his first Grand Prix title in his second senior international season.

Hanyu outscored Chen in the free skate, but the American benefited from his 5.69-point lead from Friday’s short program.

Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world champion, has never won his opening Grand Prix start in eight tries.

He did three quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate rather than the planned five, but did not fall as he did in the short program.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu in three of their last four head-to-head events dating to February.

The Rostelecom Cup free dance and pairs and women’s free skates are later Saturday.

A full Rostelecom Cup broadcast schedule is here.

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with Skate Canada, headlined by three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

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Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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