Michael Phelps beaten in 100m butterfly at Charlotte

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Michael Phelps finished third in the 100m butterfly at a Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte on Friday, coming in behind two U.S. rivals in the event.

Tom Shields, who defeated Phelps at the U.S. Championships last year, prevailed in 52.12. Longtime Phelps challenger Ryan Lochte was second in 52.52, followed by the most decorated Olympian of all time in 52.59.

Phelps, the fastest 100m fly swimmer in the world last year in 51.17, had won the 100m fly at his previous meet this year in Mesa, Ariz., in April. He swam 52.38 in Mesa.

The fastest U.S. man in the 100m fly this year is Jack Conger, who posted 51.64 in January. Conger was seventh in 53.38 on Friday.

Earlier, Phelps clocked 1:49.12 in a 200m free consolation final. He missed the top eight-man final after ranking 14th in the morning preliminary heats.

Conor Dwyer won the 200m free in 1:47.04, ranking No. 12 in the world this year and No. 1 among Americans. Lochte was fourth in 1:48.35, while Phelps’ time would have placed fifth in the top final.

Phelps’ best 200m free time last year was 1:48.20. His American record from the Beijing Olympics is 1:42.96.

“My turns are still pretty terrible,” Phelps told media in Charlotte. “But it’s a lot better than what it was last year.”

FINA women’s Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu of Hungary won the women’s 200m freestyle in 1:55.89, ahead of Olympic champion Allison Schmitt‘s 1:57.24.

Hosszu’s time made her the fourth-fastest woman this year, 1.21 seconds behind Dutch leader Femke Heemskerk. Schmitt is the No. 2 American this year behind Katie Ledecky, who is not swimming in Charlotte. World champion Missy Franklin hasn’t competed in a 200m free this year and is also not swimming in Charlotte.

Hosszu also took the 400m individual medley in 4:35.19, bettering her third-ranked time for the year in an event where she’s the reigning World champion.

World silver medalist Chase Kalisz prevailed in the men’s 400m IM in 4:14.56, the fastest time by an American this year but 6.02 seconds slower than Japanese world leader Kosuke Hagino, who is not in Charlotte.

Katie Meili clocked the fastest 100m breaststroke by a U.S. woman since 2013 by winning in 1:06.50, ranking her No. 4 in the world this year. World bronze medalist Jessica Hardy was second in 1:06.97.

Earlier Friday, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin swam a 100m backstroke time trial in 1:00.06, her fastest time in the event since she was third at the 2012 Olympic trials in 1:00.08.

She’s the fastest American in the event this year, though Franklin and other top collegians haven’t yet transitioned from NCAA yards swimming to meters meets to post any times.

Coughlin, who won the 100m back at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, has entered the event this year for the first time since the Olympic trials and could take another crack at it at the 2016 Olympic trials. Coughlin, like Schmitt, did not qualify for the 2015 World Championships team.

The meet continues through Sunday. Phelps is scheduled for the 200m butterfly and 100m backstroke on Saturday. Phelps had sworn off the 200m fly in his comeback last year but will swim it for the first time since the London Olympics.

“It’s interesting watching the world in this event,” Phelps told media in Charlotte. “If you look at what [Tom] Malchow won in 2000 [at the Sydney Olympics], still what everybody’s going nowadays. It’s still not that fast an event.”

Malchow won gold in 2000 in 1:55.35. Two men worldwide have broken 1:55 since the London Olympics, Japan’s Daiya Seto and South Africa’s Chad le Clos, who beat Phelps in the 2012 Olympic final.

“For me to ever want to really compete at that race, I would make sure that I was in the best shape possible,” Phelps said. “I know what I have to do to be able to get there. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.”

Gymnastics team event sizes at Olympics cut to four

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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