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

Lindsey Vonn wins No. 76 in biggest rout of comeback

Lindsey Vonn
AP
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Lindsey Vonn gapped the field like never before during her comeback, and never before away from her favorite course in Canada, running away with a World Cup downhill by 1.51 seconds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday.

Vonn notched her 76th World Cup victory, moving 10 behind the record held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

“Every win for me is more special than the last,” Vonn said.

She’s won by larger margins three times in her World Cup career — by 1.95, 1.73 and 1.68 seconds, all at her favorite downhill course in Lake Louise, Alberta, and all before her February 2013 World Championships crash and two major right knee surgeries that kept her from defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.

Swiss Fabienne Suter was second Saturday, followed by German Viktoria Rebensburg. Full results are here.

Swiss Lara Gut placed 14th, which meant Vonn increased her lead from 45 points to 127 points in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest prize in the sport this season with no World Championships or Olympics.

That race will likely not be decided until the World Cup Finals in a little more than one month.

Vonn won her ninth World Cup race this season, matching her total from 2008-09, the campaign that set her up to be the Alpine skiing star of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic season. Her best total was 12 from the 2011-12 season.

Vonn has won 11 of her last 12 World Cup starts in speed races (downhill and super-G) and can clinch her eighth World Cup downhill season title in the next downhill in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Saturday.

That would break her tie with Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Pröll for most titles in one discipline by a female skier. It would match the record for all skiers with Stenmark, who took eight giant slalom and eight slalom titles.

But first Vonn will try to inch closer to Stenmark’s wins record in a Garmisch-Partenkirchen super-G on Sunday (4:45 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

MORE: U.S. Olympian podiums in first race on 2018 Olympic course

Amanda Kessel ‘dream come true’ in University of Minnesota return

Amanda Kessel
AP
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Olympic silver medalist Amanda Kessel recorded two assists in her first game in nearly two years, coming back from a concussion for the University of Minnesota on Friday night.

“I think I’d regret it if I didn’t get back to this point,” Kessel said after a 3-0 win over North Dakota, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Kessel, 24, last played in the Sochi Olympic gold-medal game and then sat out nearly two years with symptoms from a concussion reportedly suffered before the Winter Games. Coach Brad Frost said in July that Kessel wouldn’t play this season, ending her college career.

But in August, new doctors gave Kessel hope she would play again.

On Friday, she skated on the Golden Gophers’ top line after the school’s medical staff got second and third opinions before clearing her to play, according to the newspaper.

“If I was going to get back to playing, I was going to be 100 percent healthy and be able to get in there,” Kessel said, according to the Pioneer Press. “I felt great being able to get in corners and get hit and stuff like that.”

Kessel, the 2012-13 NCAA Player of the Year for the undefeated national champion, said she wasn’t 100 percent in “game shape” and that she felt like a rookie, but that she’s ready to challenge herself in the final month and a half of her senior season.

“I don’t think I’ve heard it that loud since we won the national championship here [on March 22],” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “So many people were just so excited to see her work her way back to where she is now.”

MORE: How Amanda Kessel became a star for U.S. hockey team