Michael Phelps accepts missing World Championships, eyes Rio Olympics

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps said recent months, including a six-month suspension following a DUI arrest, were the hardest times of his life and that he hurt a lot of people, but now he’s the happiest he’s ever been on the eve of his first swim meet since August.

And that he wants to compete in the Rio Olympics.

Phelps, bearded, wearing a blue T-shirt and next to a water bottle both inscribed with his initials for a new swimwear logo, reflected and looked ahead while answering questions for 40 minutes in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday. He’s scheduled to compete at the Pro Swim Series stop there Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Four storylines to watch in Mesa

Phelps accepted that he will not compete at this summer’s World Championships, as part of his punishment handed down by USA Swimming in October. A March report stated Phelps could be reinstated to the team that he originally qualified for in August, one month before his DUI arrest.

“By no way would I ever want to displace a member of that team,” said Phelps, adding that he plans to swim during the Summer Nationals in San Antonio that take place the same time in August as Worlds in Kazan, Russia. “It is painful to think that I won’t have the chance to compete at Worlds based off the decision that was made last fall by USA Swimming.”

“It is disappointing that we can’t be there, but we understand the situation,” said Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, sitting next to Phelps in a press conference. “We are anxious to move on.”

On Wednesday, Phelps uttered a word he barely, if ever, used in 2014 media sessions, starting in Mesa last April, his first meet since a 20-month competitive retirement following the London Olympics.

“Hopefully, I’ll look forward to rejoining my teammates next summer,” Phelps said. “I guess leading into Rio.”

Bowman interrupted at that point, whispering, “this is the first time,” in reference to Phelps mentioning the site of the next Olympics.

A reporter then asked, does that mean you’re definitely going to try to go to Rio?

“You guys heard it here first, like it’s a big surprise,” said Phelps, who could become the first U.S. male swimmer to make five Olympic teams.

World’s greatest all-around swimmer overcomes depression

Phelps stayed true to his penchant for not revealing his goals but said they were “very lofty.” Here are some of the records he could chase in Rio.

But he and Bowman also shared stories that gave a glimpse into Phelps’ life since the DUI and a 45-day treatment program his attorney said he attended in Arizona.

Phelps said he called Bowman “several times” while they were separated. Bowman said he “went out and spent a day with him, kind of in the middle of it.”

“No one is more skeptical than me,” Bowman said. “When we had our last experience, it was going to be pretty hard to convince me that anything was going to lead back to something that we would be proud of. Michael called me a couple times from when he was away. And that started to make me think. That’s really weird, because he never calls me, ever.

“Honestly, when I went, I was, again, skeptical. I don’t know if I want to do this or not. When I left there, No. 1 I was amazed that people are transformed like that, but I just had no doubt that he had changed in a way that was really meaningful. It wasn’t superficial. It wasn’t like he’s just doing it because he knew he had to. He’s completely different. It’s been that way every day since he’s been back, and that’s the truth. Nobody’s harder on him than me.”

Phelps said there was a point where he didn’t really leave his room “for like a week, for anything.”

And that he’s training harder now than at any point since 2008, when he won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics at the peak of his career.

“It’s like being in a time machine,” Bowman said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “It’s remarkable to see somebody at age 29, doing some things faster than he ever has. He’s doing things I haven’t seen him do in at least six years.”

He’s certainly more serious about workouts than during his initial comeback in 2014.

“I was fat and out of shape last year,” said Phelps, who was the world’s top-ranked 100m butterfly swimmer in 2014 and the only U.S. man to lead the world in an Olympic event for the year.

Phelps added one more story, that Bowman recently gave him a bunch of letters written by kids from Winfield Elementary School in Windsor Mill, Md., near their Baltimore base. Bowman said the letters were written in October and sent anonymously by a teacher to the coach.

Phelps said he was almost in tears reading them. The students wrote about perseverance, he said.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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