Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin beaten in Santa Clara openers

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Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin finished third in 200m freestyle finals, their first events of a Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday night.

Santa Clara is the biggest meet remaining for U.S. swimmers before the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in early August.

Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist, was taken off the World Championships roster as part of his punishment for a September DUI arrest. He will compete at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio in August while the world’s best are in Kazan.

On Friday, Phelps finished third in the 200m free behind Connor Jaeger, who is arguably best in the 1500m free. Jaeger prevailed in 1:48.66, followed by Russian Nikita Lobintsev (1:48.86) and Phelps (1:49.03).

Phelps, who in his last meet in May finished worse than second in all of his events for the first time since the 2000 Olympics, improved from a 1:49.26 in morning heats and 1:49.12 at his last meet.

Phelps, the 2008 Olympic 200m free champion, clocked 1:48.20 in the 200m free in Santa Clara last year.

“My stroke actually kind of felt like the old stroke again,” Phelps told media in Santa Clara. “I didn’t completely die. So I think there are a lot of positives that came out of the races, but 1:49 flat isn’t something I’m excited about. It’s kind of blah.”

This year, German world-record holder Paul Biedermann is the world’s fastest in 1:45.60, followed by Chinese Olympic silver medalist Sun Yang and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, the world’s best all-around swimmer. Biedermann, Sun and Hagino are not competing in Santa Clara.

Franklin, in her first meet since the NCAA Championships in March, finished third in her 200m freestyle. The Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk won in 1:55.68, followed by FINA Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu (1:56.88) of Hungary and Franklin (1:57.02).

“It’s good to get the cobwebs out,” Franklin said.

Heemskerk is the fastest woman in the world this year, having clocked 1:54.68 on April 3. Franklin’s personal best was 1:54.81, from winning the 2013 World Championship. The top U.S. 200m free swimmer last year, Katie Ledecky (1:55.16), is not competing in Santa Clara.

The World Championships 200m free appears to be a battle among Heemskerk, Hosszu, Franklin, Ledecky, Swede Sarah Sjostrom, Australian Emma McKeon and Italian Federica Pellegrini.

Franklin later also finished eighth in the 50m backstroke, a non-Olympic event. Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, prevailed in 27.51, an American record. Coughlin failed last year to qualify for the World Championships.

American Tom Shields touched first in the 100m butterfly in 52.22, with Phelps not in the field. Shields beat Phelps at the 2014 U.S. Championships, though Phelps was fastest in the world in the event last year at 51.17.

Hosszu captured the 400m IM by five seconds in 4:34.04, off of her 4:31.07 in the prelims, which was the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool. Hosszu is more than one second faster than anybody else in the world this year and a favorite to repeat as World champion in the event, though Chinese Olympic champion and world-record holder Ye Shiwen lurks.

Russian Yulia Efimova, the World silver medalist coming off a doping ban, took the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.13. She’s second in the world this year behind Lithuanian Olympic and World champion Ruta Meilutyte.

American Cody Miller captured the men’s 100m breast in a personal-best 59.51. That’s the fastest time by an American since Brendan Hansen‘s 59.49 to take bronze at the 2012 Olympics.

Great Britain’s Adam Peaty is fastest in the world this year, with a world-record 57.92 on April 17. Miller’s 59.51 ranks No. 3 in the world, making him a medal contender for Worlds.

Santa Clara competition continues Saturday (Universal Sports, 8 p.m. ET) and Sunday (USASwimming.org, 8 p.m. ET).

Michael Phelps ‘sick of getting whooped’

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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