Michael Phelps shares victory in Santa Clara

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps notched a first-place tie and a runner-up at the Santa Clara Grand Prix on Friday night, the first time he has swum multiple finals in one session since the London Olympics.

Phelps, in his third meet this spring after sitting out 20 months, shared a 100m butterfly victory with Tom Shields in 52.11 seconds. He also finished second to the Olympic champion in the 100m freestyle.

“With having a double like that, I’m pleased,” Phelps said. “It’s still kind of frustrating. I did want to break 52.”

The women’s headliner of the meet, Missy Franklin, finished second in her only final Friday, the 100m free.

Phelps is scheduled to swim the 200m free Saturday and the 200m individual medley Sunday.

U.S. swimmers are preparing for the National Championships in Irvine, Calif., from Aug. 6-10, a selection meet for the biggest international meets the next two seasons, the Pan Pacific Championships later in August in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Phelps came from behind over the final 25 meters in the 100m fly, as is his custom, but couldn’t quite out-touch Shields. Their time, 52.11, is second behind Ryan Lochte among Americans this year. Lochte is not swimming in Santa Clara after aggravating a major knee injury earlier this spring.

Phelps swam the 100m fly in 52.13 seconds in Mesa, Ariz., in April and in Charlotte, N.C., in May. He clearly has some domestic competition in the 100m fly, an event he won at the last three Olympics.

Earlier, Phelps clocked 48.80 seconds in the 100m free, behind only Olympic champion Nathan Adrian, who won easily in 48.17. Olympic 200m free champion Yannick Agnel, a training partner of Phelps, was fifth in 49.94.

Phelps’ time put him No. 23 in the world in the event, according to FINA, and second among Americans, behind only Adrian. He’s in great shape to be part of the four-man 4x100m free relay at the Pan Pacific Championships in August, if he so chooses.

Phelps clocked 49.99 in the morning prelims, swimming the 100m free for the first time since he was the second leg in the London Olympic 4x100m free relay.

“Happier about the 100m free than I am the 100m fly,” Phelps said. “Even though, technically, I guess you could say that’s better than what I’ve been in Mesa and in Charlotte, but [coach] Bob [Bowman] and I are both kind of annoyed about going 52.1. It’s the third time we’ve done it this year. So we’d like to make a bigger breakthrough than just taking two one hundredths off of it.”

Franklin, in her only Grand Prix meet this season, took second to World Championships teammate Simone Manuel in the 100m free. Manuel clocked 54.44. She’s the fastest American this year, followed by Allison Schmitt and then Franklin, who swam 54.51.

Franklin is slated to swim four more events in Santa Clara, the 200m backstroke (Saturday), 200m free (Saturday), 100m back (Sunday) and 200m individual medley (Sunday).

Also Friday, Katie Ledecky won a 400m free in Texas in 4:03.09, the fastest time in the world this year by .75. Ledecky, 17 and the reigning female World Swimmer of the Year, broke her 1500m free world record Thursday.

In other Santa Clara events, reigning U.S. champion Kevin Cordes won the 200m breaststroke in 2:11.82, making him the fastest American this year. World bronze medalist Micah Lawrence won the women’s 200m breast in 2:26.53, two seconds slower than her U.S.-leading time at the Charlotte Grand Prix last month.

Denmark’s Lotte Friis won the women’s 400m free in 4:06.83, which was 3.74 seconds slower than Ledecky in Texas. World bronze medalist Connor Jaeger took the men’s 400m free in 3:47.98, .91 faster than his U.S.-leading time from Charlotte.

Felicia Lee captured the women’s 100m fly in 59.62. She’s the No. 3 American this year.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”