Michael Phelps swims fastest 100m butterfly in world this year

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IRVINE, Calif. — Michael Phelps clocked the fastest time in the world this year in the heats of the 100m butterfly at the U.S. Championships on Friday.

The time was faster than his gold medal-winning swim at the 2012 Olympics.

Phelps, in the fifth meet of his comeback after a 20-month competitive retirement, won his preliminary heat in 51.17 seconds. Ryan Lochte was second in 51.91.

“I wanted to put up the fastest time in the world in Atlanta [a meet in July where he swam 51.67],” Phelps said. “Being able to go [51.1] is decent in the morning.”

Phelps, the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion, finished seventh in the 100m freestyle Wednesday in the first of his four events at the meet.

Lochte was second in the 100m free and third in the 200m backstroke Thursday. He made the team for the Pan Pacific Championships, which are Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia.

Phelps has not yet made the Pan Pacs team.

The top two finishers in the 100m fly final Friday night (10:43 ET) guarantee spots on the Pan Pacs team. Third place will also likely make the team.

“I think I have to prove some things in that event,” a not fully satisfied Phelps said. “We’ll see if it happens tonight.”

Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, said it was the best swim of Phelps’ comeback “by far.”

“Now we’ve got to put together two good ones in a day,” Bowman said. “That’s a big challenge, apparently, at this point. I thought we were kind of looking good the other day [in the 100m free].”

Once swimmers make the Pan Pacs team in one event, they can enter as many other events as they want at Pan Pacs.

Phelps and Lochte are slated to race the 100m backstroke Saturday and 200m individual medley Sunday, the final two days of the meet.

In other events Friday morning, Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel was the top qualifier into the 400m IM final.

Tyler Clary and Chase Kalisz, the last two World silver medalists in the men’s 400m IM, were the top qualifiers into the final.

Olympian Claire Donahue led the women’s 100m butterfly final qualifiers.

Mishaps emerge at U.S. Championships

Mikaela Shiffrin wins final slalom for best career season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her 12th World Cup race this season and seventh slalom, both personal bests, at the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden, on Saturday.

Shiffrin, who clinched her second World Cup overall title and fifth slalom season title before the last races of the campaign this weekend, prevailed by 1.58 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener. PyeongChang gold medalist Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was third.

“The slalom has always been really close to my heart,” said Shiffrin, who won the last two slaloms this season after a shocking fourth-place finish in PyeongChang. “To finish with a run like that was super special.”

Full results are here.

Shiffrin matched Lindsey Vonn‘s American record for World Cup wins in one season — 12 — with one more race Sunday. Only Swiss Vreni Schneider has more women’s World Cup wins in a single campaign with 14.

Shiffrin, who turned 23 on Tuesday, also moved into solo fifth place on the women’s World Cup wins list with 43, including 23 victories in the last two seasons.

If Shiffrin keeps it up, she can move into the top three next season, though Lindsey Vonn‘s record 82 is a ways off.

“I’m not thinking about that so much,” Shiffrin said. “It’s way too soon to set that as my goal.”

Shiffrin is also three World Cup slalom wins shy of the record 35 held by retired Austrian Marlies Schild, whom Shiffrin supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier in 2013.

The World Cup Finals conclude Sunday with the women’s giant slalom. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of the second run at 7:30 a.m. ET.

“After today I’m really looking forward to going to the start one more time this season and hammering down,” Shiffrin said.

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Katie Ledecky beaten in NCAA Championships individual medley

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Katie Ledecky lost an NCAA Championships race for the first time in eight career finals, taking second in the 400-yard individual medley on Friday.

Stanford teammate Ella Eastin easily beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds and grabbed the American and NCAA records from Ledecky, too. Eastin’s 3:54.60 is 1.93 seconds faster than Ledecky’s time from the Pac-12 Championships last month.

How did she do it?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Eastin said on ESPNU. “I’ve built a lot of endurance this year, and it really showed.”

Eastin is decorated in her own right. She three-peated as NCAA 400-yard IM champion and held the American record in the event before Ledecky lowered it last month.

Eastin would have made the 2017 World Championships team had she not been disqualified for an illegal turn after finishing in second place at nationals.

Ledecky, a sophomore, has never contested the 400m IM at a U.S. Championships, Olympics or world championships, nor did she race the 400-yard IM at 2017 NCAAs. She raced the 400 IM instead of the 200 freestyle on Friday.

All of Ledecky’s races at major meets before Friday were in freestyle events. Her only defeat in a major international meet individual final was the 200m freestyle at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky won five NCAA titles last year and the last two nights anchored the 800-yard freestyle relay and captured the 500-yard freestyle by eight seconds.

Meet results are here.

Later Friday, Lilly King of Indiana three-peated in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking her American and NCAA records and winning in 56.25 seconds. King is also the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, plus the world-record holder.

“Always excited to get the record, but was really hoping to break 56 today,” King said.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford became the second woman after Missy Franklin to break 1:40 in the 200-yard freestyle, winning in 1:39.80. Co-Olympic 100m free champ Simone Manuel of Stanford was third. Comerford and Ledecky tied for the 2017 NCAA 200 free title.

Stanford’s Ally Howe won the 100-yard backstroke in 49.70, one hundredth shy of her NCAA and American records. Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker of Cal-Berkeley was third.

NCAAs conclude Saturday. Ledecky swims the 1,650-yard freestyle. She is the overwhelming favorite, having gone 35 seconds faster than anyone this season.

Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.

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