Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps in 4 events on Santa Clara Grand Prix psych sheets

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The third meet of Michael Phelps‘ comeback could be his busiest yet.

The 22-time Olympic medalist is listed in four events on psych sheets for next week’s Santa Clara Grand Prix — the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley.

Consider psych sheets entry lists. Phelps could still pull out of any of the events, but if he sticks with all four he will swim more than his two other meets this spring combined, his first competitions since the London Olympics.

Phelps swam the 100m butterfly at both the Mesa Grand Prix in April and Charlotte Grand Prix in May, finishing second and first, respectively. He also swam the 200m freestyle in Charlotte, but scratched out of the finals.

In Santa Clara, he has the possibility of competing in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley for the first time since he came out of retirement.

Phelps was a part of U.S. Olympic 4x100m freestyle relays in 2004, 2008 and 2012 but has only raced the individual 100m free once at the Olympics or World Championships (seventh at 2005 Worlds). Phelps won the last three Olympic 200m individual medley titles.

The 100m freestyle is a strong event for the U.S., with reigning Olympic champion Nathan Adrian and World silver medalist Jimmy Feigen. Remember, only two men make Olympic and World Championships teams per individual event (though usually the top six make the 4x100m relay pool).

If Phelps continues to swim the 200m individual medley at the summer’s two biggest meets, the U.S. Championships and Pan Pacific Championships in August, he could continue his long rivalry with Ryan Lochte in the event. Phelps and Lochte shared the Olympic 200m IM podium at the last three Games. Lochte is the reigning World champion.

However, Lochte is not entered in Santa Clara and his status going forward is unknown. He withdrew from the Charlotte Grand Prix after aggravating a knee injury initially suffered in November. Lochte wore a knee brace in Charlotte but was seen in Las Vegas without the brace last weekend.

Missy Franklin is the star women’s swimmer in Santa Clara, in six events on the psych sheets. The six include her regulars — the 100m and 200m backstrokes and 100m and 200m freestyles — and the 200m IM and 100m butterfly.

Franklin, who became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships last year, has never competed in an IM or butterfly at an Olympics, Worlds or Pan Pacific Championships.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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