2014 Phillips 66 National Championships

Ryan Lochte wins 200 IM over Michael Phelps at Nationals

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IRVINE, Calif. — Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps performed like the rivals of old in their final race of the U.S. Championships on Sunday, putting four days of shaky swims behind them.

Lochte edged Phelps by .05 in the 200m individual medley for his first victory of the meet.

“It’s been hard throughout this whole year,” said Lochte, who re-tore an MCL in the spring after initially injuring the knee when an overzealous fan ran into him in November. “My confidence wasn’t really there because I always rely on my training. … This year, I haven’t done that training.”

Lochte, the 11-time Olympic medalist, won in 1:56.5, barely holding off the charging Phelps on the final 50 meters of freestyle.

Lochte’s title came less than a month after Phelps beat him in all three of their races together at a meet in Athens, Ga. That was Lochte’s first meet since April.

Lochte also ensured that Phelps showed up at Nationals and failed to win a single race for the first time since the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, when he was 15 and made the Sydney team by finishing second in the 200m butterfly.

“We both hate to lose to one another,” Phelps said, “but we enjoy racing against each other.”

Phelps, in his fifth meet since a 20-month competitive retirement, had two runner-ups, a sixth and a seventh in four events. He also clocked the fastest 100m butterfly in the world this year, but it was in the preliminary heats.

“I’m a lot happier with finishing [the meet] like that [the third-fastest 200m IM time in the world this year] than finishing with some of the sub-par performances that I’ve had throughout the finals sessions of this meet,” Phelps said.

Next up: the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-25. There, Lochte and Phelps will face swimmers from nations outside Europe in the biggest international meet of the year.

They are free to enter any individual events they like in Gold Coast.

“If I want to be where I want to be, I know what I have to do,” Phelps said. “Some of these races really upset me, frustrated myself and [coach] Bob [Bowman].”

In other events Sunday, Anthony Ervin won the 50m freestyle in 21.55, 14 years after he tied for Olympic gold in the event. Nathan Adrian was second in 21.69, followed by Cullen Jones, who snuck onto the Pan Pacs team.

Simone Manuel won the women’s 50m free in 24.56. Twelve-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin was sixth, failing to make the Pan Pacs team.

Three women’s stars miss Pan Pacs, Worlds

Michael McBroom took the 800m freestyle in 7:49.66, improving on his third-fastest time in the world this year. McBroom won 800m free silver at the 2013 World Championships.

Melanie Margalis won the women’s 200m individual medley in 2:10.20, the third-fastest time in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz was third to sneak onto the Pan Pacs team.

Katy Campbell knocked 27.11 seconds off her personal best to win the women’s 1500m free in 16:17.69.

Katie Ledecky‘s world record in the 1500m free from June 19 is 15:34.23. Ledecky, who broke the 400m world record Saturday, decided not to swim the 1500m free.

U.S. roster for Pan Pacs

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross win World Series of Beach Volleyball

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Rio bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross bounced back from an Olympic upset to win the biggest annual tournament in the U.S. on Sunday.

Walsh Jennings and Ross captured the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball title in Long Beach, Calif., for the second time in three years. They beat Spanish pair Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo 21-16, 21-16 in the final.

Absent from Long Beach were Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and silver medalists Ágatha and Bárbara of Brazil.

Walsh Jennings and Ross, who lost to Ágatha and Bárbara in the Olympic semifinals, dropped a total of two sets in seven undefeated matches this past week.

They earned their fifth international title of the year after winning none in 2015, last season shortened by Walsh Jennings’ fifth right shoulder surgery.

Later, the top U.S. men’s pair of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were scheduled to play Brazilians Pedro and Evandro in the men’s final in Long Beach.

The beach volleyball season continues with the FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto in two weeks.

MORE: Tough for Misty May-Treanor to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings in Rio

Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Monica Puig
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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

MORE: U.S. goes one-two in Olympic mixed doubles