Michael Phelps

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 wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career