Chad le Clos says Michael Phelps ‘can keep quiet now’ amid butterfly trash talk

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Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos, once so friendly that they reportedly agreed to go swimming with sharks together (though there aren’t reports it actually happened), don’t appear to be on the best of terms at the moment.

It all started May 15.

Michael Phelps, who had sworn off swimming the 200m butterfly in his comeback in 2014, had started to warm to re-adding his signature event. Even though it’s among the more grueling of the five individual events he swam in his prime in 2004 and 2008.

“It’s interesting watching the world in this event,” Phelps told media at a meet in Charlotte, N.C., on May 15. “If you look at what [Tom] Malchow won in 2000 [his time at the Sydney Olympics], still what everybody’s going nowadays. It’s still not that fast an event.”

Malchow won gold in 2000 in 1:55.35, when a 15-year-old Phelps debuted at the Olympics and placed fifth.

When Phelps made those comments May 15, two men worldwide had broken 1:55 since the London Olympics, while top times in most other events had dropped more significantly in the same 15-year period.

Well, the man who beat Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the London Olympics did not take kindly to Phelps’ comments.

“He’s been talking a lot of smack in the media about how slow the butterfly is, so I just can’t wait until I race him,” South African Chad le Clos said Wednesday at the World Championships, according to The Associated Press.

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On Friday, Phelps clocked the fastest 200m butterfly in the world for the year, a 1:52.94 at the U.S. Championships. The time would have won the 2015 World title by .54 of a second, over longtime Hungarian rival Laszlo Cseh and le Clos. It would have won the 2012 Olympic title by .02 over le Clos.

It was Phelps’ fastest time in the event since his world record of 1:51.51 set at the 2009 World Championships while wearing a now-outlawed fast body suit.

On Saturday, le Clos repeated as 100m butterfly World champion, clocking an African record 50.56.

“I just did a [100m butterfly] time that [Phelps] hasn’t done in four years, so he can keep quiet now,” le Clos said on Eurosport. Six years, actually. Phelps hasn’t clocked 50.56 or better in the 100m butterfly since 2009, when he set the world record of 49.82.

Le Clos went on in speaking to more media in Kazan on Saturday.

“I’m just very happy that he’s back to his good form, so he can’t come out and say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been training’ or all that rubbish that he’s been talking,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “Next year [at Rio] is going to be Muhammad AliJoe Frazier.

“Look, I don’t want to say it’s easy to swim by yourself [against lesser competition at the U.S. Championships than at Worlds], but it’s a lot harder when you know Chad le Clos is coming back at you the last 50 meters. That’s what he’s got to think about really.”

Phelps, the three-time Olympic 100m fly champ who is swimming the 100m fly at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio on Saturday, had a best 100m butterfly time in 2014 of 51.17.

Also Saturday, Cseh said that he was aware of Phelps’ 200m butterfly time from the night before.

“It’s quite good, but it doesn’t matter because I won the World Championship,” Cseh, whose five Olympic medals over three Games all came in events won by Phelps, said on Eurosport.

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Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.