Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps takes third; Conor Dwyer takes BMW

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Michael Phelps‘ loss at the Santa Clara Grand Prix was a big, big gain for training partner Conor Dwyer.

Dwyer erased a .25 of a second deficit on Phelps in the final 50 meters to win the 200m individual medley on Sunday, the meet’s final day. Phelps, in his third meet since taking 20 months off after the 2012 Olympics, fell to third behind Chase Kalisz.

Dwyer out touched Kalisz, 1:59.49 to 1:59.53 (video here). Phelps came in at 1:59.76 in his first 200m IM final since winning his third straight Olympic gold in the event in London.

The victory carried added significance for Dwyer. NBC Olympics and Universal Sports analyst Rowdy Gaines informed Dwyer before the final that if he won he would earn an extra $20,000 and a one-year use of a BMW as the overall Grand Prix series champion.

“I’m never racing for money, but I guess it was a nice reminder,” Dwyer said on Universal Sports. “A little extra incentive right there.”

Phelps swam more at the Santa Clara Grand Prix than at his previous two comeback meets combined. He also tied for the win in the 100m butterfly and finished second to the Olympic champions in the 100m and 200m freestyles.

“He’s light years ahead of where we started,” said Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “It’s only going to get better.”

Time will tell if Phelps goes with these four events moving forward, but he’s already among the top Americans two months into his competitive comeback. Here’s where he ranks on U.S. lists for 2014:

100m Freestyle
1. Nathan Adrian — 48.08
2. Michael Phelps — 48.8

200m Freestyle
1. Conor Dwyer — 1:47.86
2. Michael Phelps — 1:48.2

100m Butterfly
1. Ryan Lochte — 51.93
T2. Michael Phelps — 52.11
T2. Tom Shields — 52.11

200m IM
1. Conor Dwyer — 1:59.49
2. Chase Kalisz — 1:59.53
3. Michael Phelps — 1:59.76

U.S. swimmers are preparing for the U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., from Aug. 6-10 and the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, later in August.

Phelps could compete again before Nationals, reportedly in Athens, Ga., in three weeks.

In other finals Sunday, Missy Franklin notched her second victory in four events this weekend, earning the 100m backstroke title in 1:00.99 (video here). She also won the 200m free and was third in the 200m back Saturday and second in the 100m free Friday.

Franklin, who became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships last year, veered toward the edge of her lane line like she did in the 200m back Saturday.

“I happy I didn’t slam into it like I did last night,” said a smiling, laughing Franklin, a rising sophomore at California. “So I’ll totally take it.”

Three-time Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin, who may soon switch countries, beat Olympic champion Matt Grevers in the 100m back, 54.34 to 54.95.

Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz won the 200m IM in 2:12.61.

U.S. champion Kevin Cordes completed a breaststroke sweep, capturing the 100m breast in 1:00.91. Laura Sogar prevailed in the women’s 100m breast in 1:09.15.

Two-time South African Olympian Sebastien Rousseau took the men’s 200m butterfly in 1:58.50. Venezuelan Olympian Adreina Pinto won the women’s 200m fly in 2:10.59.

Rising college freshman Cierra Runge won the women’s 800m free in 8:26.71.

Katie Ledecky breaks another world record Sunday

Mirai Nagasu enters worlds motivated by Olympic finish with future undecided

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A sense of validation coursed through Mirai Nagasu. Probably in PyeongChang, when she became the first U.S. woman to land a triple Axel at the Olympics. Definitely two weeks ago, when she attended the Academy Awards.

“It felt like I had really made it,” she said in an interview with NBC Sports Research. “The Oscars was open bar, so I had a little champagne there.”

The 24-year-old had earned at least that much, but somewhere in the back of her mind on March 4 had to be Milan, where she would be in two weeks for the world championships.

“It’s hard to [train] programs when you want to go on vacation and sip a mimosa,” Nagasu said, “but something about alcohol and training doesn’t mix well.”


Most of the other big-name U.S. Olympic figure skaters — including Adam Rippon and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani — withdrew from worlds, along with many international medalists, after the Olympics. For some, there were simply too many off-ice opportunities to fit in training. Others, exhaustion. Or retirement.

None of the above for Nagasu.

“Part of the reason I want to go to worlds [is] because I know I’m capable of performing better than I did in the long,” she said.

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Nagasu wasn’t referring to her memorable long program from the Olympic team event, where she helped the U.S. secure a bronze medal with that triple Axel.

Rather, she meant the individual free skate.

A fatigued Nagasu popped her planned triple Axel for zero points and singled a triple Lutz. She finished 10th overall, part of the worst U.S. women’s results in Winter Olympic history (but not completely unexpected given the pre-Olympic world rankings).

Nagasu knew that she was a dark-horse bronze-medal pick after her personal-best free skate in the team event. She scored nearly 18 fewer points in the individual long program.

So Nagasu decided to compete at worlds after making the U.S. team outright for the annual event for the first time since 2010.

She hopes to land the triple Axel in both programs Wednesday and Friday. That might be necessary to challenge for the podium. Most of the top women from the Olympics are in this week’s field, except silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, who placed sixth.

It could be the last competition of Nagasu’s career. She has not decided if she will compete in the fall.

“Some days I want to throw my skates in the trash, and other days I’m like, I still love this and I want to kill myself doing programs every day,” she said. “Right now I want to do my best at worlds, and that’s what I’m focused on. … I can’t even really think about competing next season.”

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Sprinters age 100, 102 break records at USATF Masters Indoors (video)

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100-year-old sprinter Orville Rogers broke five world records in the 100-plus age group at the USATF Masters Indoors Championships over the weekend.

The retired pilot did so in the 60m (19.13 seconds), 200m (1:40.94), 400m (4:16.90), 800m (9:56.44) and 1500m (20:00.91), according to USA Track and Field.

Not to be outdone, 102-year-old Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins broke 100-plus age group records in the 60m and the shot put as the oldest female competitor in meet history.

In the 60m, Hawkins clocked 24.79 seconds, smashing Ida Keeling‘s record of 58.34 from February. Hawkins also threw the shot put 2.77 meters (or 9 feet, 1.25 inches).

Full meet results are here.

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