Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps beats Ryan Lochte again in Athens

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Michael Phelps notched his second win in as many days over Ryan Lochte in the fourth meet of his comeback after a 20-month retirement.

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, won a 100m backstroke race in 53.88 seconds in Athens, Ga., on Saturday. Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, touched second in 54.4.

Phelps’ victory in an event neither usually swims at major meets came one day after he beat Lochte by a comfortable 1.41 seconds in a 100m butterfly race.

Butterfly has always been Phelps’ signature stroke, while Lochte has more backstroke experience. Lochte is the reigning World champion in the 200m back. But Lochte is coming back from an aggravation of a major November knee injury, competing for the first time since April.

Phelps’ time ranks No. 14 in the world this year and third among Americans, according to SwimVortex.com.

Phelps is expected to swim the 100m freestyle on the final day of the meet Sunday.

Swimmers are preparing for the U.S. Championships in Irvine Calif., Aug. 6-10, and the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-24.

In other events, 2013 World 400m individual medley silver medalist Chase Kalisz won the 200m butterfly, a former Phelps staple, in 1:58.09, making him the third-fastest American this year. Olympic 200m backstroke champion Tyler Clary was second in 1:58.96.

Olympian Cammile Adams won the women’s 200m fly in 2:08.45, improving to 13th in the world this year.

Brazil’s second-best sprinter, Bruno Fratus, won the 50m freestyle in 22.09, .26 faster than U.S. Olympic silver medalist Cullen Jones. Two-time Bahamian Olympian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace took the women’s 50m free in 24.67, .69 slower than the fastest woman this year.

Melanie Margalis upset World bronze medalist Micah Lawrence in the 200m breaststroke, clocking 2:27.06, still more than two seconds slower than Lawrence’s U.S.-best time this year.

Nic Fink won the men’s 200m breast in 2:11.76 and Kathleen Baker, 17, the 100m back in 1:00.65, both the fastest times by an American in 2014.

Cierra Runge won the women’s 400m free in 4:07.67, improving on her time as the second-fastest American behind Katie Ledecky this year.

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U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order