Michael Phelps seventh in return to 200m butterfly

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Michael Phelps finished seventh in his first 200m butterfly final since the 2012 Olympics at a Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte on Saturday.

The most decorated Olympian of all time clocked 2:00.77 in the eight-swimmer race, 3.19 seconds behind winner Chase Kalisz.

Phelps’ first Olympic race was the 200m fly at the Sydney 2000 Games at age 15, where he finished fifth (in 1:56.50) as the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 1932. It became his signature event, and he dominated until South African Chad le Clos nipped him by .05 at the 2012 Olympics.

When Phelps unretired last year, he swore off the 200m fly. His appearance Saturday may have been merely for training purposes, but he left the door open to add it to his regular program while talking to media in Charlotte on Friday night. Phelps has plenty of time to tinker before the 2016 Olympic trials, since he’s not swimming at the World Championships this summer.

“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 Friday. “I know what I have to do to be able to get there. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.”

Phelps’ world record in the 200m fly is 1:51.51, set at the 2009 World Championships. His time on Saturday night would have placed 25th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials.

Phelps is scheduled for two events on the final day in Charlotte on Sunday, the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley (finals at 6 p.m. ET on Universal Sports).

In other events Saturday, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin took second in the 50m freestyle in 25.03. The Bahamas’ Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace won in 24.35.

Coughlin, 32, finished sixth in the 50m free at the 2014 U.S. Championships in 24.97, failing to make the World Championships team. Two swimmers per event can compete for one nation at a Worlds or Olympics.

Josh Schneider, a 27-year-old who has never made an Olympic team, beat world record holder Cesar Cielo of Brazil, American record holder Cullen Jones and Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian in the men’s 50m free.

Schneider clocked 21.96, followed by Cielo (22.05) and Adrian (22.19). Schneider’s time tied him for fifth in the world this year. Schneider is the fastest American in the event this year.

FINA women’s Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu of Hungary swept the 200m fly and the 100m backstroke in a span of about 35 minutes.

Ryan Lochte finished fourth in the men’s 100m back, an event he hasn’t entered at a major international meet since 2007.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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