Michael Phelps swims world’s fastest 200m butterfly of 2015

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Michael Phelps and longtime coach Bob Bowman are known for setting goal times for big meets, and keeping those times secret.

Before the U.S. Championships, Phelps asked Bowman to scribble a time for his first event of the meet Friday night, the 200m butterfly. Phelps did the same, writing his numbers separately.

The result?

“Substantially faster than what both of us put down,” Bowman told media at the meet in San Antonio.

Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist, clocked his fastest 200m butterfly since he set the world record in 2009 at the U.S. Championships on Friday night. He won in 1:52.94.

The time would have won gold at the World Championships, which are being held concurrently in Kazan, Russia, by .54 of a second. It would have won the 2012 Olympics by .02.

Simply, it’s the most impressive swim for Phelps since he came back to the sport following a 20-month competitive retirement in April 2014.

“He gutted that out like I haven’t seen him do in a long time,” Bowman said. “He told me the plan before the race, and it was exactly what he did.”

Upon touching the wall, Phelps caught his breath for a few seconds, learned his time and slammed his right arm into the pool in perhaps his most exuberant celebration since winning the 100m butterfly at the 2009 World Championships.

Then he slammed both of his arms in the water for good measure (race video here). Those were accompanied by raising a No. 1 finger in the air, according to reports from the meet.

“I guess it’s a good feeling to be back,” Phelps told media in San Antonio (video here). “We’re in a pretty good place right now.”

Remember, Phelps was upset at the 2012 Olympics by South African Chad le Clos and swore off the 200m butterfly at the start of his comeback last year.

“Nope, uh-uh,” Phelps said in May 2014, smiling while cutting off a reporter at the mention of the 200m butterfly, one of his more grueling events. “I will tell you that that race and the 400m IM [individual medley] are definitely gone.”

But in May 2015, Phelps had a different mindset.

“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 one day before clocking 2:00.77 for seventh place in a meet in Charlotte. “I know what I have to do to be able to get there. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.”

The 200m butterfly was long Phelps’ trademark event. It was his first Olympic event, debuting with a fifth place at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He went some 60 races over nine years without losing a 200m butterfly.

“It’s been a long, hard road to get here,” Bowman said. “You never really know if you’re ever going to get back to that level.”

Phelps warmed to re-adding it this year in part because the rest of the world’s times have not been impressive.

“He’s been talking a lot of smack in the media about how slow the butterfly is,” le Clos said at the World Championships earlier this week, according to The Associated Press.

Phelps is swimming at the U.S. Championships and not the World Championships this week due to punishment from his Sept. 30 DUI arrest.

In April, Phelps called the months following that arrest some of the hardest times of his life. He’s emerged from it with incredible confidence.

“I can do whatever I put my mind to,” Phelps said, “and this next year is going to be pretty damn fun.”

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Mondo Duplantis, Elaine Thompson-Herah win to end Diamond League season

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Mondo Duplantis completed one of the greatest seasons in track and field history, under some of the most unusual circumstances for much of the year, by winning the last Diamond League meet of 2020 in Doha on Friday.

Duplantis outdueled pole vault rivals Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie in the Qatari capital, the site of his last defeat to Kendricks at the 2019 World Championships.

Duplantis, who was raised in Louisiana and competes for his mother’s birth country of Sweden, won on countback with a 5.82-meter clearance.

Back in February, the 20-year-old Duplantis twice raised the world record at indoor meets, ultimately to 6.18 meters. Eight days ago, Duplantis cleared the highest outdoor height in history, taking Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka off the record books.

Full Doha results are here.

While the Diamond League is finished for 2020, one major event in the sport remains this year — the London Marathon on Oct. 4 at 2 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

The two fastest men in history, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, headline the fields on an adapted looped course.

In other events Friday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri surged to the lead after the bell in a 3000m that included five women who won 2019 World Championships medals across four different events. Obiri clocked 8:22.54 in the non-Olympic event, holding off world 10,000m bronze medalist Agnes Tirop and world 3000m steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech.

Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah won the 100m in 10.87 seconds, eight days after clocking the fastest time in the world this year of 10.85.

Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio, has traded world-leading times with countrywoman and 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champ Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce the last two seasons.

Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon made a rare 800m start, winning in a personal-best 1:57.68. The only woman to run faster over the last two years is double Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, who is now barred from events from the 400m through the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures.

Aaron Mallett won the 110m hurdles in a personal-best 13.15 seconds, making him the third-fastest American over the last three years behind Grant Holloway and Daniel Roberts. The top three at Olympic Trials next June make the Tokyo team.

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field 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.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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