Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps beaten by Olympic champion at Santa Clara

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Michael Phelps finished second to Olympic champion Yannick Agnel in the 200m freestyle at the Santa Clara Grand Prix, the third meet of his comeback, on Saturday.

Phelps, who took 20 months away from competition after the London Olympics, clocked 1 minute, 48.20 seconds in the 200m free. France’s Agnel, his training partner at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, won in 1:46.99 (video here).

“I got left like I was standing still the last 50 [meters] by this guy,” Phelps said on Universal Sports, gesturing to the 6-foot-8 Agnel standing next to him. “That wasn’t really the funnest last 50 ever. It felt good to get my first 200 under my belt, in a final at least.”

Phelps continued to improve his 200m free in his third time racing the event this year, and first final. He swam 1:51.69 in Charlotte, N.C., in May and 1:49.61 in the preliminary heats earlier Saturday.

Phelps beat training partner Conor Dwyer for second place by .16, which was notable given Dwyer won silver behind Agnel in the 200m free at the 2013 World Championships.

Rising California sophomore Missy Franklin won the 200m freestyle and finished third in the 200m backstroke 22 minutes later.

Frankin, who became the first woman to win six golds at a single World Championships last year, finished in 1:56.96 in the 200m free (video here), beating a field that included Olympic champion Allison Schmitt. Schmitt and World Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky have both gone faster than 1:56.96 this year.

Franklin came back to finish third behind Elizabeth Beisel and Liz Pelton in the 200m back. Beisel won in 2:09.11, followed by Pelton in 2:09.73 and Franklin in 2:09.86. Franklin is the Olympic and World champion in the 200m back and the world record holder.

Phelps and Franklin are expected to swim the 200m individual medley on the final day of the meet Sunday. Franklin is also entered in the 100m backstroke.

U.S. swimmers are gearing up for the summer’s two biggest meets in August, the U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., and the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.

In other events Saturday, Beisel blew out the 400m IM field by 6.26 seconds, posting 4:33.52. Beisel, who has won 400m IM medals at four straight major international meets, improved to No. 4 in the world this year.

World silver medalist Chase Kalisz cruised to win the men’s 400m IM by 5.78 seconds in 4:11.71. That’s the fifth fastest time in the world this year.

“I actually wanted to be a little bit faster,” said Kalisz, who came to Santa Clara from altitude training with Phelps and other North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Three-time Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin beat U.S. Olympic champion Tyler Clary in the 200m back, 1:55.5 to 1:58.41.

Brazil’s Bruno Fratus captured the men’s 50m free in 22.03, which was a comfy .55 better than second place Anthony Ervin, the 2000 co-Olympic champion. Fratus finished fourth in the 2012 Olympic 50m free and is Brazil’s second best sprinter behind Cesar Cielo.

Cheyenne Coffman took the women’s 50m free in 25.12.

Missy Franklin can’t help but notice Katie Ledecky, Rio

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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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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