Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps beats Ryan Lochte for first time since Olympics

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Michael Phelps notched another mark in his comeback, defeating Ryan Lochte for the first time since the London Olympics on Friday.

Phelps, in his fourth meet after a 20-month retirement, won a 100m butterfly in Athens, Ga., in 51.67 seconds. His longtime rival Lochte, in his first meet since April, took second in 53.08.

Phelps’ time made him the second fastest man in the event this year, according to SwimVortex.com. He improved by nearly a half-second on his 100m fly finals times from the first three meets of his comeback — 52.13, 52.13 and 52.11.

“I wanted to get under 52,” Phelps said. “I’m sick and tired of seeing 52.1. I guess it was what, seven hundredths off the No. 1 time in the world, so, I guess it’s a decent swim.

“I would have liked to have had the No. 1 time in the world.”

Phelps is the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion, winning in 51.21 in London.

Phelps and Lochte raced once before this year, in a 100m fly in Phelps’ first return meet in April. There, Lochte won 51.93 to 52.13.

“I hope I lose,” Lochte said. “It will just make me more hungry. I hate to lose, and it pisses me off. [Phelps] swam a fantastic race [Friday]. It was really fast.”

Lochte is working his way back from aggravating a November knee injury in April. The 11-time Olympic medalist also won a 200m freestyle consolation final Friday.

Lochte clocked 1:48.69 in the 200m free, which would have placed fourth in the A final won by Olympic and World champion Yannick Agnel. Lochte missed the eight-man A final because he was 14th fastest in the morning preliminary heats. Phelps recorded a 1:48.2 in the 200m free on June 19.

The Bulldog Grand Slam continues Saturday with Phelps scheduled to swim the 100m backstroke. Phelps, Lochte and others are preparing for the U.S. Championships, Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, Calif., which serve as a selection meet for the Pan Pacific Championships, Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

“This is always a big summer for U.S. swimmers because we pick two teams,” Phelps said. “So, you really have to be ready this year. If you’re not, you’re pretty much sitting around until [2016] Olympic Trials.”

In other events Friday, five-time 2012 Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt won the women’s 200m free in 1:58.16, out-touching Olympic relay and former University of Georgia teammate Shannon Vreeland by .18.

Olympian Micah Lawrence took the women’s 100m breaststroke in 1:08.5, nearly one second slower than her best time this year. Nic Fink won the men’s race in 1:01.69.

Melanie Margalis won the women’s 400m individual medley in 4:39.84, making her the third-fastest American this year.

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Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.