Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps

One year out: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt eyeing Olympic farewell in Rio

4 Comments

Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will hope tough times came and passed in the spring.

On the third weekend of May, the 22-time Olympic medalist Phelps finished third, seventh, ninth, ninth and 11th in five events spanning three days at a swim meet in Charlotte, N.C.

The last time Phelps went to a meet and did not leave it with a top-two placement? The Sydney 2000 Olympics, when he was 15 years old.

At the conclusion of the Charlotte meet, the most decorated Olympian of all time called parts of his swimming “horrendous” and “pretty garbage” and that he had to reassess “a bunch of stuff.”

“I have work to do,” Phelps said May 17. “There’s some time, but not much.

“Whatever it is I have to figure out, I have to figure out now.”

On the second Saturday of June, the six-time Olympic champion Bolt ran his slowest 200m final time since 2006 at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York. He won, barely and against not-so-decorated competition, but he was not pleased.

“I don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Bolt said at the track where he broke his first world record on May 31, 2008, after a lightning storm. “At this pace, my legacy is going to be in trouble.”

The two athletes most synonymous with the Olympics this millennium, perhaps of all time, both plan to make Rio 2016 their final Games.

Will Phelps and Bolt go out in 2016 as the champions of 2008 and 2012? That’s an unknown one year before the Opening Ceremony.

Phelps, Bolt hope to meet for first time before Olympic farewell

Phelps, 30, originally retired after his fourth Olympics in London, where he won six medals to pass Soviet Larissa Latynina for the most in a career.

He returned to competition 20 months later, a decision he’s repeatedly said was made “to have fun” this time around.

In September, Phelps was arrested on DUI charges in Maryland. Phelps said the months following that arrest were the hardest times of his life, a span that included a six-month competition ban and a 45-day treatment program his attorney said he attended in Arizona.

Phelps didn’t publicly commit to making a run for the Rio Olympics until the end of the suspension this past April. The punishment for the DUI charge also included excluding Phelps from the ongoing World Championships in Kazan, Russia, the biggest meet outside of the Olympics.

“Phelps’ commitment appears to remain firm following the struggles of late last year and, in the pool, the defeats of this spring. He ended the losing skid in June with two wins in a meet in Santa Clara, Calif., and is competing this week at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio while the rest of the best American swimmers are in Russia.”

The talent and drive are still there. In 2014, Phelps was the only U.S. male swimmer to post a world-leading time in an Olympic event (100m butterfly). He swore off the 200m butterfly early in his comeback but has since warmed to it, a sign of growing confidence. Phelps could try to make the Olympic team to swim seven events in 2016 (three of them relays), which would be the same number as in 2012 and one fewer than in 2004 and 2008.

Phelps was absolutely not one of the best swimmers at that Charlotte meet in May, but all that matters is if he is one of the best at the Olympic trials next June and July and at Rio in August 2016.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at Sydney 2000 Olympics

Bolt, 28, hasn’t lost an individual race since June 6, 2013, marking the longest win streak (by days) of his senior career.

But that statistic is misleading. Bolt hasn’t competed against the world’s best sprinters since 2013 and missed much of 2014 and 2015 due to injuries.

His world records from 2009 are 9.58 seconds in the 100m and 19.19 in the 200m. Bolt’s best times since the start of 2014 in those races were 9.98 and 20.13, until he woke up and ran 9.87 twice in an hour span at the London Olympic Stadium on July 24.

That might have been enough to allay concerns in past seasons, but not now. Bolt’s challenge is not just to rediscover his past form but also to overcome a rival.

American Justin Gatlin, who won the 2004 Olympic 100m title, is running the fastest times of his life at age 33, five years removed from a four-year doping ban.

Gatlin hasn’t lost an individual race since Sept. 6, 2013, which was the last time he lined up versus Bolt. Since, Gatlin is the only man to run 9.80 seconds or faster for 100m, which he has done six times.

By the end of August, we’ll know whether Bolt will go into 2016 as the favorite to win the 100m and 200m at a third straight Olympics. He and Gatlin are scheduled to face off in the 100m and 200m at the World Championships in Beijing in three weeks.

While Phelps’ plans post-Rio aren’t known, Bolt has said he will definitely continue competing for one more year. He wants to end his career at the 2017 World Championships in London. But what if he loses there? Could he retire with a legacy that includes a defeat in his final major race?

“I don’t think I could,” Bolt said in February. “On my last race, my last championship, I don’t think I could.”

Flashback: Usain Bolt at Athens 2004 Olympics (video)

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

Leave a comment

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final