Michael Phelps enters Santa Clara sick of ‘getting whooped’

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps is sick and tired.

“Of just getting whooped,” the most decorated Olympian of all time told media Thursday.

Phelps headlines a Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif., from Friday through Sunday (Universal Sports, Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. ET; USASwimming.org live for all sessions).

It’s his first meet since a mid-May competition in Charlotte that he called “horrendous” and “pretty garbage” and said at its conclusion that he needed to reassess “a bunch of stuff.”

In Charlotte, Phelps finished worse than second place in all of his events at a meet for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, when he was 15.

“He’s had a very good training cycle since he came back [from an Arizona treatment program following a September DUI arrest] in November,” coach Bob Bowman said, sitting next to Phelps on Thursday. “The one thing he hasn’t done is swim well in a meet yet. So, this is a great chance to do that. Any time now, I’m ready. But he’s done the things to be able to swim well in a meet, and that’s what’s important. He’s actually laid a foundation of training, which, if he wants to get in his head and step on the gas tomorrow, he’ll be ready to go.”

Bowman, too, reassessed after Charlotte. That Phelps swam a 200m butterfly in Charlotte in 2:00.77, more than four seconds slower than his time at the 2000 Olympics, was not acceptable.

“I was like, no, we’re not doing that again,” Bowman said. “So let’s do something [in training] to make sure he won’t do that again.”

Phelps said he’s done things in practice that he’s never done — such as a set of five 150 butterflies.

“[Phelps] probably hasn’t hurt that bad in a very long time,” Bowman said.

It’s also helped having Chase Kalisz to go head-to-head with in workouts. Kalisz, a longtime North Baltimore Aquatic Club swimmer and the World 400m individual medley silver medalist, recently finished his junior year at the University of Georgia. Kalisz joined Phelps for that grueling set of butterflies.

“Chase killed [Phelps] on it,” Bowman said.

“I was trying to leave that part out of it,” Phelps interjected. “I don’t like when my younger brother beats me in workouts.”

Bowman said his toughest recent challenge as coach was to remind Phelps of the hard work it took him to reach his super-elite status. Phelps arguably hasn’t been there in at least five years, though he was the only U.S. men’s swimmer in 2014 to post a world-leading time for the year in an Olympic event (the 100m butterfly).

“When he first came back after his year off [a 20-month competitive retirement from the London Olympics to April 2014], it’s like the honeymoon, right, Oh, we’re so glad Michael’s back,” Bowman said. “Anything he did was good because we had no expectations. Even though he swam a time that was ranked No. 1 in the world, he swam the same the whole season. He didn’t really make a progression. We started this year on a different foot. He’s actually done the work that it needs to take. Now we’re into the part where it’s serious. You’re either going to step up and face the heat and keep going, or not step up and not the face the heat and not keep going. But he’s actually in a position now where he can move to the top level if he wants to.

“He’s never looked better physically.”

Santa Clara might mark Phelps’ most competitive meet through the rest of this year, since he’s not going to the World Championships in August as part of his punishment for that DUI.

After Santa Clara, Phelps will head to train at altitude in Colorado Springs, will probably swim a couple of events at a smaller meet, Bowman said, and then head to the U.S. Championships in San Antonio from Aug. 4-8.

“If you would ask any swimmer, they would want to swim at the highest level the year before the Olympics, especially when you qualify for the team,” Phelps said. “It would be nice to swim against the best in the world to compare yourself [at Worlds], but I can also do that from Nationals with times and stuff.”

Phelps’ schedule in Santa Clara is interesting.

He’s entered in five events, with three of them on one day — the 200m individual medley, 200m backstroke and 100m freestyle on Sunday.

Bowman said Phelps will probably swim in at least the morning preliminaries for all of those events, leaving the door open for Phelps to scratch any of them for the night finals.

“At this point it’s me racing myself,” Phelps said. “That’s something that I have to continue to do more and more is to push myself to the next level. … I’m still, I think, in the point of just trying to figure out what I actually have in the tank and how fast I can actually swim.”

Flashback: Michael Phelps at Sydney 2000 Olympics

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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