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

Nathan Chen holds off Yuzuru Hanyu to win first Grand Prix

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen opened the Grand Prix season by beating Olympic gold-medal favorite Yuzuru Hanyu.

Chen, 18, held off Hanyu at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, totaling 293.79 points to win by 3.02 over the Japanese megastar. Full scores are here.

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in a strong but imperfect free skate for his first Grand Prix title in his second senior international season.

Hanyu outscored Chen in the free skate, but the American benefited from his 5.69-point lead from Friday’s short program.

Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world champion, has never won his opening Grand Prix start in eight tries.

He did three quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate rather than the planned five, but did not fall as he did in the short program.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu in three of their last four head-to-head events dating to February.

The Rostelecom Cup free dance and pairs and women’s free skates are later Saturday.

A full Rostelecom Cup broadcast schedule is here.

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with Skate Canada, headlined by three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

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Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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