Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps wins his first preliminary race since London Olympics

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Michael Phelps won a 100m butterfly preliminary heat in his first competitive swim since the London Olympics and was the fastest qualifier into Thursday night’s A final at the Arena Grand Prix at Mesa, Ariz.

Phelps clocked 52.84 seconds (video here) to beat a field that included Olympic 100m backstroke champion Matt Grevers and two Americans who swam butterfly at the 2013 World Championships, Eugene Godsoe and Tom LuchsingerRyan Lochte swam in the heat before Phelps and posted 52.94.

“I felt like a kid, being able to race again and be back at a meet,” Phelps said on Universal Sports. “I literally feel like a 10-year-old kid, just enjoying it. I was excited to get in the water yesterday. I probably came up to the blocks a little early, a little too excited. A new experience again for me, but I like it.”

Phelps’ time is the second fastest for a U.S. man this year, .12 behind Tom Shields from an earlier meet, according to FINA.

Phelps wore a white swim cap, a dark jammer waist-to-knees suit and took his customary condor arm flaps on the starting block. He was second at the 50m mark, .01 behind, according to the race announcer.

Phelps last swam a 100m butterfly at the 2012 Olympics, where he won gold in 51.21. The fastest time in the world so far this year is 51.84, according to SwimVortex.com. South African Chad le Clos won the 2013 World Championship in 51.06.

The 100m butterfly final in Mesa will take place during the night session that begins at 8 p.m. Eastern.

“It sets up, hopefully, a good race tonight,” Phelps said. “I know what I want to do tonight. We’ll see if it happens.”

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 career medals, retired after winning six medals at the London Olympics but re-entered the drug testing pool last year, allowing him to enter meets this year.

It was announced he signed up for the Mesa Grand Prix on April 14, and he made his first comments since entering the meet on Wednesday, saying he’s back swimming “for fun” and not yet committing to a run to the Rio Olympics.

Phelps is expected to swim one more event in Mesa on Friday, the 50m freestyle.

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The other Michael set to make splash in Mesa

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

AP
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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