Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps shares victory in Santa Clara

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Michael Phelps notched a first-place tie and a runner-up at the Santa Clara Grand Prix on Friday night, the first time he has swum multiple finals in one session since the London Olympics.

Phelps, in his third meet this spring after sitting out 20 months, shared a 100m butterfly victory with Tom Shields in 52.11 seconds. He also finished second to the Olympic champion in the 100m freestyle.

“With having a double like that, I’m pleased,” Phelps said. “It’s still kind of frustrating. I did want to break 52.”

The women’s headliner of the meet, Missy Franklin, finished second in her only final Friday, the 100m free.

Phelps is scheduled to swim the 200m free Saturday and the 200m individual medley Sunday.

U.S. swimmers are preparing for the National Championships in Irvine, Calif., from Aug. 6-10, a selection meet for the biggest international meets the next two seasons, the Pan Pacific Championships later in August in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Phelps came from behind over the final 25 meters in the 100m fly, as is his custom, but couldn’t quite out-touch Shields. Their time, 52.11, is second behind Ryan Lochte among Americans this year. Lochte is not swimming in Santa Clara after aggravating a major knee injury earlier this spring.

Phelps swam the 100m fly in 52.13 seconds in Mesa, Ariz., in April and in Charlotte, N.C., in May. He clearly has some domestic competition in the 100m fly, an event he won at the last three Olympics.

Earlier, Phelps clocked 48.80 seconds in the 100m free, behind only Olympic champion Nathan Adrian, who won easily in 48.17. Olympic 200m free champion Yannick Agnel, a training partner of Phelps, was fifth in 49.94.

Phelps’ time put him No. 23 in the world in the event, according to FINA, and second among Americans, behind only Adrian. He’s in great shape to be part of the four-man 4x100m free relay at the Pan Pacific Championships in August, if he so chooses.

Phelps clocked 49.99 in the morning prelims, swimming the 100m free for the first time since he was the second leg in the London Olympic 4x100m free relay.

“Happier about the 100m free than I am the 100m fly,” Phelps said. “Even though, technically, I guess you could say that’s better than what I’ve been in Mesa and in Charlotte, but [coach] Bob [Bowman] and I are both kind of annoyed about going 52.1. It’s the third time we’ve done it this year. So we’d like to make a bigger breakthrough than just taking two one hundredths off of it.”

Franklin, in her only Grand Prix meet this season, took second to World Championships teammate Simone Manuel in the 100m free. Manuel clocked 54.44. She’s the fastest American this year, followed by Allison Schmitt and then Franklin, who swam 54.51.

Franklin is slated to swim four more events in Santa Clara, the 200m backstroke (Saturday), 200m free (Saturday), 100m back (Sunday) and 200m individual medley (Sunday).

Also Friday, Katie Ledecky won a 400m free in Texas in 4:03.09, the fastest time in the world this year by .75. Ledecky, 17 and the reigning female World Swimmer of the Year, broke her 1500m free world record Thursday.

In other Santa Clara events, reigning U.S. champion Kevin Cordes won the 200m breaststroke in 2:11.82, making him the fastest American this year. World bronze medalist Micah Lawrence won the women’s 200m breast in 2:26.53, two seconds slower than her U.S.-leading time at the Charlotte Grand Prix last month.

Denmark’s Lotte Friis won the women’s 400m free in 4:06.83, which was 3.74 seconds slower than Ledecky in Texas. World bronze medalist Connor Jaeger took the men’s 400m free in 3:47.98, .91 faster than his U.S.-leading time from Charlotte.

Felicia Lee captured the women’s 100m fly in 59.62. She’s the No. 3 American this year.

World champion swimmer unretires after Sochi trip

Kerri Walsh Jennings’ next partner is a familiar one

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is slated to play with with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh this summer, after she and Olympic bronze medal teammate April Ross split last month.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion with Misty May-Treanor before that bronze in Rio, and Branagh, who made the Beijing Games quarterfinals with Elaine Youngs, are entered in an FIVB World Tour event in Croatia the last week of June.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are both 38 years old and briefly paired in 2010 when May-Treanor was uncertain about making a run for the London Olympics. When May-Treanor told Walsh Jennings she was all-in for London, Walsh Jennings split from Branagh.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are hoping to play together through the World Tour Finals in late August, according to Volleyball Magazine.

That includes the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in late July and early August.

It’s not known if they will have the combined ranking points to earn an outright worlds spot. They could also receive a wild card for worlds. Entries will be announced next month.

Walsh Jennings, a mother of three, has said she hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics at age 41, when she will be older than any previous Olympic beach or indoor volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

Branagh returned to competition this year after a one-year break to have her second child. She has played few international events since 2012 and last won internationally in 2010 (with Walsh Jennings).

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and 2009 World champion, is now partnered with Lauren Fendrick, who played with Brooke Sweat in Rio. Ross, 34, said she will figure out her long-term partner plans for Tokyo 2020 after this season.

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Catching up with Ross Powers

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Ross Powers, now 38 years old and 15 years removed from his Olympic snowboarding title, is still out with halfpipe riders on the snow five days per week.

The difference now is that Powers is coaching. He runs the snowboarding program at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he graduated from in 1997.

Powers spoke with OlympicTalk before last season, reflecting on 20 years of snowboarding in the Olympics, Shaun White and how he likes coaching.

OlympicTalk: The PyeongChang Winter Games will mark 20 years since snowboarding’s debut in Nagano. What was it like competing in the first Olympic halfpipe?

Powers (who won bronze in Nagano at age 19): It seemed kind of like a regular World Cup. We were up in the mountains. At the time, it was a really good halfpipe, but we ended up competing in some bad weather, some rain. I didn’t realize until I left Japan and got home how big the Olympics were. But looking back, it was a special time. And I really learned from the ’98 Olympics, like if I get this chance again, I’m going to go there, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to go to Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, watch as many events as I can and just make the most out of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The Nagano halfpipe was about half the size of today’s superpipes (394 feet long with 11 1/2-foot walls vs. 590 feet with 22-foot walls in Sochi). Could today’s snowboarders compete with you guys back in 1998?

Powers: It was so different. At the time, I want to say it was the biggest pipe we rode, but compared to today’s standards, it’s small. The weather was tricky. I think a lot of those guys [today] could ride it, but it’s so much different than today’s halfpipe for sure.

OlympicTalk: In 2002, when you led a U.S. men’s halfpipe medal sweep, the rider who just missed the Olympic team was a 15-year-old Shaun White. What do you remember about him?

Powers: You kind of knew he was going to be the next guy. Where he took our sport and certain tricks. One thing that really impressed me about him is he’ll train really hard for an event, show up, even if the conditions are bad, he’s planned this trick he wants to do, and he’ll try it no matter what. Most of the time he’ll give it a go and land it. That actually hurt him in Russia [White attempted but couldn’t perfect the YOLO Flip 1440 in Sochi] because he probably could have stepped down a notch, gotten a medal and maybe even won the event.

OlympicTalk: Did Shaun ever beat you before you retired?

Powers: I had my run from 1998, ’99, ’00, ’01, all those times that I was doing really well. I tried to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. I was the alternate, so I just missed that. He was definitely beating me up through those times.

OlympicTalk: Did you travel to the Torino Olympics as an alternate?

Powers: I did, yeah. I traveled over there and actually watched my buddy [Seth] Wescott win the gold in boarder cross. That night, he was like, you should try boarder cross. That kind of got me into doing that my next few years after that.

[Editor’s Note: Powers almost made the 2010 Olympic team in snowboard cross, even finishing third in a December 2009 World Cup.]

OlympicTalk: Which is tougher, coaching or competing?

Powers: I would say it is tougher coaching than competing. You just have so many responsibilities and so much work. The nice thing about coaching, though, compared to competing, is you can kind of push yourself and have fun [riding] on certain days but then also sit back and really work with the athletes on all other days. So when you’re feeling it, you can push yourself. So it’s not like an athlete, where you have to push yourself.

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