Michael Phelps answers Chad le Clos with world’s top 100m butterfly

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Chad le Clos said Michael Phelps “can keep quiet now” on Saturday. Hours later, Phelps let his swimming do the talking. It spoke loudly.

Just as Phelps did Friday, the 22-time Olympic medalist clocked the fastest time in the world in a butterfly event since 2009 at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio on Saturday night.

Phelps won the 100m butterfly in 50.45 seconds, .11 faster than the South African le Clos’ winning time at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, earlier Saturday.

After his victory, Phelps said he was aware of the 2012 Olympic 200m butterfly champion le Clos’ comments from Russia that could accurately be described as trash talk.

“Let that swim make statements,” Phelps told media of his swim in San Antonio (video here). “Chad’s a good swimmer. You know, you can’t take that away from him. Like I said, I welcome any comment that anyone wants to say. It doesn’t bother me.”

Phelps has uttered those last two sentences before. He’s dealt with similar comments from other swimmers in the past.

Leading up to the 2008 Olympics, Australian Ian Thorpe repeatedly said Phelps would fail if he tried to win a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games. Phelps, as he did after countryman Ian Crocker once beat him in a 100m butterfly in 2003, posted a picture of Thorpe and/or Thorpe’s comments in his locker for motivation. Then he proved Thorpe wrong.

Also in 2008, France’s Alain Bernard said before the Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay of the Americans, “We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for.” Phelps and the U.S. upset the French at the Beijing Games, with Jason Lezak running down Bernard in an epic anchor leg.

In 2009, Serbian Milorad Cavic splashed into the controversy of the time about (now-banned) ultra-fast suits, challenging Phelps by saying the American had options other than Speedo to wear for races, insinuating there were better models such as Cavic’s Arena suit.

Phelps, who beat Cavic by .01 the year before at the Beijing Olympics, responded by beating Cavic by .13 in the 2009 World Championships final. Phelps broke the world record that Cavic had set in the semifinals. Phelps’ celebrated by popping and slapping his black Speedo bodysuit.

“It’s happened to me in the past,” Phelps said Saturday. “Thorpe said some stuff. Cavic said some stuff. Go ahead. It’s just going to fuel me. Bernard in the 4x100m free relay. … If you want to do it, go for it. Like I said, I welcome it. I smile at some and get serious at other comments. They are what they are, they’re just comments, and they’re printed on a piece of paper. It has nothing to do with me. Whatever I do in the pool will speak for itself.”

Phelps also made reference Saturday to his original May 15 comments about the 200m butterfly being a slow event.

“I don’t do it to talk trash,” Phelps said. “I do it to state facts, and I know some people went back and checked my facts after I said that stuff about the 200m fly, and I was right. So I know my facts about the sport.”

On Sunday, le Clos back tracked from his previous comments a little, saying he’s not a trash talker and not to classify him in the group of the likes of Cavic.

“I don’t fear Michael Phelps,” he said Sunday. “I never have, and I never will. … If he wants to race tomorrow, I’ll race tomorrow.”

Le Clos and Phelps have not raced since the 2012 Olympics.

Phelps’ longtime rival Laszlo Cseh, who won the 200m butterfly at Worlds, said the Rio Games will be his fourth and final Olympics.

“If there is no Michael, then there is no me,” said Cseh, whose five Olympic medals spread across three Games all came in events won by Phelps. “He is the fastest swimmer. He always [pushes] me to the times I achieve.”

Phelps is scheduled to swim the 200m individual medley in San Antonio on Sunday.

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NBC Olympic researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Kazan.

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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