Michael Phelps notches first event win of comeback

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Michael Phelps is a winner for the first time since the London Olympics.

The 22-time Olympic medalist captured the 100m butterfly at the Charlotte Grand Prix in 52.13 seconds Friday night. The competition marked the second meet of his comeback.

He retired after the London Olympics, returned to training last year and finished second in the 100m butterfly at the Mesa Grand Prix on April 24.

Phelps, in a white cap, gray waist-to-knee swim trunks and a full beard, swam the same time Friday he did in the Mesa final three weeks ago. He led by .56 of a second hitting the wall at the 25-meter turn and won by .59 (video here).

“I guess the consistency is there,” Phelps said on Universal Sports. “Still, the walls are very bad.”

He’s the three-time reigning Olympic champion in the 100m butterfly. His world record from 2009 is 49.82.

Phelps is finished swimming in Charlotte and will head to Colorado for high-altitude training, reportedly beginning May 27.

“I know it’s good for me, but it’s not always something I enjoy the most,” Phelps said of Colorado.

His next meet could be the Santa Clara Grand Prix in California from June 19-22. The biggest meets of 2014 are later this summer, the U.S. Championships and the Pan Pacific Championships in August.

In other events Friday, Hungarian Katinka Hosszu won the women’s 200m free in 1:56.30, edging Olympic champion Allison Schmitt by .11 in a meeting of the two top female swimmers entered in the meet. Hosszu, the world champion in the 200m and 400m individual medleys, later won the 400m IM by more than four seconds.

World silver medalist Chase Kalisz took the men’s 400m IM in 4:16.38, more than three seconds better than runner-up Tyler Clary.

World silver medalist Conor Dwyer won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.86. Phelps had qualified for that final earlier Friday but scratched out of it. Olympic champion Yannick Agnel was disqualified after the prelims for false starting.

Jessica Hardy won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.86, the fifth fastest time in the world of 2014 for the world bronze medalist. Olympian Micah Lawrence was second, .62 behind. Two-time Bulgarian Olympian Mike Alexandrov, who tried to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, took the men’s 100m breast in 1:01.48.

Canadian Olympian Katerine Savard won the women’s 100m butterfly in 58.60, .24 over U.S. Olympian Claire Donahue.

Katie Ledecky follows Janet Evans’ college path

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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