Michael Phelps loses 100m butterfly by .01, makes Pan Pacs

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IRVINE, Calif. — The great Michael Phelps is back, they said after the morning prelims.

“Not yet,” his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, said after the night final. “That was pretty terrible.”

Phelps lost the 100m butterfly (by .01) at a national meet for the first time since the 2004 Olympic Trials on Friday night.

Phelps actually clocked the fastest time of the day, and the fastest time of anyone in the world this year. But he did that in the preliminary heats.

In the final, he went .13 slower. Phelps, known for heart-pounding come-from-behind victories in the 100m fly before his retirement, could not out-touch Tom Shields after running him down over the final 50 meters.

Shields, 23, won in 51.29 seconds, two nights after capturing the 200m fly for his first career national title. Phelps was 51.30.

He was seventh at the 50m wall and was in between strokes going into the turn, forced to glide in and lose momentum (unlike in prelims).

Phelps, in the fifth meet of his comeback following a 20-month competitive break, could take consolation in qualifying for the Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest international meet of 2014. But he wasn’t really in the mood.

“I’m somebody who can’t stand to lose,” Phelps said. “This will definitely be something that sticks with me over the next year.”

Bowman thought Phelps looked nervous before the final, reminding him of Phelps’ first comeback race in Mesa, Ariz., in April.

The pressure of finishing top two to make the Pan Pacs team, perhaps.

That was never an issue for Phelps when he won 22 medals over three Olympics.

Bowman said he thought the last time Phelps felt pressure to make a national team was at the 2000 Olympic Trials, when Phelps was 15.

“I just felt out of it,” Phelps said Friday. “Not my normal self at finals. Normally, I’m very relaxed and very ready. It’s probably just because I’m not used to being in this kind of shape or this kind of feeling going into a meet.

“Normally, I can look back and say I’ve done all the training, I’ve done everything I needed to do to prepare myself. With having a year and a half off and maybe not really going as hard as I probably should have at some of the parts during the year, it shows.”

The razor-thin margin of defeat brought to mind Phelps’ Olympic 100m fly win in 2008, which was by .01 over Milorad Cavic.

Phelps also won the 2004 Olympic 100m fly by .04.

“It’s better to be on the losing side at a meet like this than it is at a bigger meet,” Phelps said.

Phelps, the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champ, still improved on a disappointing seventh-place finish in the 100m freestyle, his first event at Nationals on Wednesday.

Phelps qualified to swim any individual events he wants at the Pan Pacific Championships, Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia.

South African Chad le Clos, who beat Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 Olympics, is the only man who has posted a faster 100m fly time than Phelps’ 51.17 since the London Games.

Phelps and Ryan Lochte are entered in both the 100m backstroke Saturday and 200m individual medley Sunday, the final two days of the U.S. Championships.

“I need more training, I need more endurance,” Phelps said. “I need to feel more comfort with my stroke.”

In other events Friday, Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel won the 400m individual medley in 4:32.98, making her the fourth-fastest woman this year.

Olympic 200m backstroke champion Tyler Clary outdueled World silver medalist Chase Kalisz in the men’s 400m IM in 4:09.51. Clary moved up to No. 2 in the world rankings for 2014.

Kendyl Stewart knocked .54 off her personal best to win the women’s 100m fly in 57.98. She edged 2012 Olympian Claire Donahue by .05.

Mishaps emerge at U.S. Championships

Too early to say whether virus threatens Olympics, WHO says

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GENEVA (AP) — Despite a virus outbreak spreading from China, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday it’s much too soon to say whether the Tokyo Olympics are at risk of being cancelled or moved.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said they have no contingency plans for the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games since the WHO declared a global health emergency last month.

The U.N. agency’s emergencies program director, Michael Ryan, said Tuesday the sporting event was “way too far” away to consider giving advice that would affect Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics.

“We are not there to make a decision for that,” Ryan told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a news conference at WHO headquarters.

Geneva-based WHO has been in regular contact with the IOC in nearby Lausanne since the virus known as COVID-19 emerged in December.

“We don’t give them judgments,” Ryan said. “We assist them with their risk assessment. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months.”

The death toll in mainland China due to the virus rose to almost 1,900 on Tuesday, with more than 72,000 confirmed cases.

The outbreak has caused numerous sports events in China to be canceled, postponed, or moved, including qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese athletes and teams have also been unable to travel for some competitions. China sent a team of more than 400 athletes to the Rio Olympics. It won 70 medals, including 26 gold, to place second in total medal standings.

Around 11,000 athletes and many more team coaches and officials from more than 200 national teams are expected in Japan for the Olympics.

Japan has experienced the most significant outbreak of the virus outside of China, on the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in quarantine at Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

During a 14-day isolation that ends Wednesday, 542 cases have been identified among more than 3,700 passengers and crew.

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For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

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Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

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