Michael Phelps self-assessment: ‘horrendous,’ ‘garbage’ after winless Charlotte meet

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Michael Phelps finished first or second in zero events at a meet, believed to be for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, at a Pro Swim Series stop in Charlotte over the weekend.

The 22-time Olympic medalist finished third, seventh, ninth, ninth and 11th in five events spanning three days (full results here).

“After seeing the performance of some of the people that we’ve seen this weekend, I think it’s probably a good thing that I’m not going to Worlds,” Phelps told media in Charlotte, referencing the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August, which he is ineligible for due to his punishment following a September DUI arrest. “I have work to do.”

Phelps said he was frustrated, that he felt like his legs weren’t connected to his upper body, his dolphin kicks were “horrendous,” his freestyle stroke was “pretty garbage” and that he had to reassess “a bunch of stuff.”

Phelps said he planned on swimming in the next Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif., from June 18-21 and then spend three weeks training at altitude in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“There’s some time, but not much,” said Phelps, who said for the first time in April that he harbored ambitions of making a fifth Olympic team in 2016. “Whatever it is I have to figure out, I have to figure out now.”

On Sunday, Phelps failed to reach the top eight-man finals in both of his events — the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley. In 2014, Phelps returned from a 20-month competitive retirement to be the only U.S. man to post a world-leading time in an Olympic event (100m butterfly).

This year, Phelps is the third-fastest American in the 200m freestyle, fourth in the 100m fly and fifth in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley.

“What I want most is to be racing the competition I need to be racing,” Phelps said. “Not taking away anything from the B heat [consolation finals Phelps raced in Sunday], but I want to race Ryan [Lochte] and those guys.”

Lochte won the 200m individual medley in 1:57.20, ranking third in the world this year.

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian won the 100m freestyle in 48.85 seconds, the fastest by an American this year and 25th-fastest in the world. (U.S. swimmers are generally lower ranked at this point due in part because other nations have held World Championships trials, requiring their swimmers to taper and peak already. Top U.S. swimmers, such as Phelps, may look at these spring meets as training.)

“It’s a good starting spot,” Adrian told media in Charlotte. “I came here trying to shake a little rust loose. … I consider this the first meet of the championship season.”

Hungarian FINA women’s Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu completed a Phelps-in-his-prime-like feat, winning six events over three days in Charlotte.

On Sunday, Hosszu clocked the fastest-ever 200m IM in a U.S. pool (2:08.66, fastest in the world this year) and a personal-best 200m backstroke (2:07.79, No. 3 in the world this year) in a span of about 20 minutes.

Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, won the 100m free in 54.24 against a field that did not include the fastest Americans from 2014, Simone Manuel and Missy Franklin. Coughlin, 32, swam a 54.18 in a 100m free at the Pro Swim Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., last month and is the fastest American in the event this year.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
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Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, checklist complete, carries lessons into new World Cup season

Mikaela Shiffrin
Atomic
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Mikaela Shiffrin said she hit every possible statistical goal in the first 11 years of her Alpine skiing career. Keep that in mind as the storyline the next few seasons may turn to the World Cup wins record.

Shiffrin, who begins her 12th World Cup season in Soelden, Austria, in two weeks, is up to 74 victories on the circuit. The 27-year-old ranks third all-time behind Lindsey Vonn, who owns the women’s record of 82 wins, and Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who has the overall record of 86.

Shiffrin did rounds of interviews Thursday at the media day for her ski sponsor, Atomic. In one sitdown streamed by Atomic, she was asked, “Are you aiming for the record? … There’s just 12 left. Normally, winning 12 races, that’s a lot, but you already won 74, so it doesn’t sound that much anymore.”

“Just 12,” Shiffrin joked. “If you look at it like that, but that’s maybe oversimplification.” (Note greats including Americans Picabo Street and Julia Mancuso didn’t win 12 World Cups over a career.)

Then Shiffrin asked if the interviewer did in fact say 74 — “Yeah, you have 74,” the interviewer confirmed to Shiffrin, who sat between fellow stars Sofia Goggia of Italy and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway.

“Even after 74 … one race feels like a lot,” Shiffrin continued. “Twelve [wins] still feels like a large mountain to climb, for sure, but it’s step by step or race by race. If I just focus on what’s coming in the next couple weeks and then keep going from there, then we’ll see.”

From 2017 to 2019, Shiffrin won 11, 12 and 17 times on the World Cup. Her last three seasons were abbreviated after her father’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic and back problems. She still won an average of five races each year.

In an earlier interview Thursday, Shiffrin expressed confidence about her preseason form. She followed February’s Beijing Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth, by bagging her fourth World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, crowning the best all-around skier.

“Finishing off [at last March’s World Cup Finals] in Meribel, that final race of the season, I was thinking, I could use a moment to breathe,” she said. “There was also this part of me that’s like, I kind of didn’t want this to be the last race. I was a little bit antsy to actually get going on the next season already.”

Shiffrin took less of a break than a year ago, spending 10 days in Maui. She had “really productive” training camps in Colorado, Switzerland and Chile and arrived back in Europe on Wednesday for the run-up to the World Cup opener on Oct. 22.

As always, the priority is keeping her slalom and giant slalom technique top-notch. As long as that’s flowing, Shiffrin feels comfortable branching into the speed events, starting with super-Gs. She plans to race both the slalom and GS at February’s world championships, then possibly the super-G with the combined less of a priority. The downhill is “fairly doubtful,” but she has a few months to make a final decision.

Of course, Shiffrin raced everything at the Olympics in February. In interviews last winter, she couldn’t quite explain why the greatest technical skier in history did not finish any of her three technical runs at the Games.

Shiffrin gave a detailed, two-and-a-half-minute answer when asked Thursday if she went back during this offseason to analyze those races. Or if she is brushing them off as an anomaly.

“Statistically, it’s an anomaly, but there was a lot of culminating factors that could have been involved,” she said.

In basic terms, she got on her inside ski in the opening GS and fell within 13 seconds — “a technical flaw that had a much higher consequence than it’s ever had in any other race that I’ve ever done.” In slalom, she had too much intensity, or too much speed, in a section that required more precision and skidded out within six seconds — “I was not giving anything away, and then I gave everything away.”

“There was less margin for error in Beijing because of the snow conditions,” said Shiffrin, who like every other racer hadn’t previously raced on that slope of manufactured snow. “I don’t think I maybe considered that enough in the moment when I was skiing to kind of reel it in sometimes when it would have been necessary. But I also wasn’t skiing to reel it in or make it to the finish. I was skiing to like, blow the course apart. I was going for it.”

She hopes to take that mentality into this season. In the spring and summer, she devoted more time to developing equipment that works better on softer snow, which is becoming more commonplace at World Cup venues given warmer temperatures.

“If you have a checklist of goals you want to achieve before you retire, actually, my checklist is complete,” she said. “If I had one, it would be complete. Somehow, I feel like I still have something left to accomplish, or faster skiing to do, so that’s kind of why I’m here. Hopefully I can remember that when there’s points in the season that feel stressful or pressure. There’s nothing that has to be done.”

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