Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps touched by reaction to Sports Illustrated story

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Michael Phelps popped on social media, scanned strangers’ comments and friends’ text messages after his revealing Sports Illustrated cover story came out Tuesday.

“How did it feel to say whatever you want to say and be human?” friends asked.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” Phelps told media Wednesday. “I’m a human being. Everything’s out there.”

He picked out one Twitter comment.

“I wasn’t that fond of him, but after reading this article my mind has really been interested in the sport and watching him over the next year,” Phelps paraphrased before adding his reaction. “I think just reading things like that, it’s pretty cool, and it’s the first time I felt that way.”

Phelps spoke Wednesday in Minneapolis, where he could swim in as many as six events at the meet kicking off the Olympic season.

“For me, when I see athletes tell their stories and be more human, I think there’s a better connection,” he said. “I think it just shows that we are all human beings, and it’s OK to seek help if you need it. I think that’s something that I hope a lot of people got out of that.

The meet runs from Thursday through Saturday, with live webcasts on USASwimming.org (10 a.m. ET prelims; 7 p.m. finals).

It’s the first meet including all four U.S. swimming headliners — Phelps, Ryan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky — since the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

A little more than one month after Pan Pacs, Phelps was arrested on DUI charges, beginning an 11-month journey that climaxed with a comeback at the U.S. Championships in August.

At Nationals, Phelps swam the world’s fastest times of the year in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley, including the world’s fastest times in the butterfly events since 2009 (the record-wild, fast-suit era). He celebrated emphatically, slamming his arms in the San Antonio pool.

Minneapolis marks his first meet since, and the setting conjures memories of Phelps’ first Senior Nationals at the same University of Minnesota pool, when he was a 14-year-old in 1999.

Then, Phelps spent more time in awe of Olympic medalists Tom Dolan and Tom Malchow than on concentrating on his own swims.

“Dead last in two events,” coach Bob Bowman quipped Wednesday. “Very successful.”

Phelps’ confidence seems unshakable now, after emerging from the darkest time of his life last year and then lighting up the pool in San Antonio three months ago.

“There’s still more in the tank,” Phelps said. “I have very lofty goals [which Phelps, as his is policy, wouldn’t reveal]. … We’re working on getting faster.”

Phelps went into the U.S. Championships in August skeptical, after spring meets that left him describing his swimming as “horrendous” and “garbage.”

“As soon as the first one happened at Nationals, I thought, wow, I can really do something here,” Phelps said. “It kind of opened my eyes up.

“It just gives me, I guess, a lot more hope that there’s a lot more that him [Bowman] and I can do over the next year.”

Now, after spending three weeks training at altitude in Colorado Springs, he feels a little more like that kid who forgot to tie his suit strings and wore the wrong credential at the Sydney Olympics.

“I’m hungrier than where I was leading into 2012, besides the recovery part for me, how it’s a little bit slower nowadays,” said Phelps, who turned 30 on June 30 and in 2016 can become the oldest individual Olympic swimming champion. “I feel like I did in high school, like that kind of excitement level.”

Phelps said he’s “giddy.”

“It’s kind of scary going into this year,” he said, pausing for a second and then rephrasing. “Scary in a good way.”

MORE: Michael Phelps revealed comeback to family with 3 a.m. voicemail

Coco Gauff upsets 9th seed to start French Open

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Coco Gauff notched yet another impressive Grand Slam match win, taking out ninth seed Jo Konta in her French Open main draw debut on Sunday.

Gauff, a 16-year-old American, upset the Brit Konta, a 2019 French Open semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3 on the first day of play at Roland Garros despite 12 double faults. Konta had 41 unforced errors to 22 winners.

“Every match is a great win,” said Gauff, the youngest player in either singles draw. “I don’t really take anything for granted because I’m just happy to be playing. I don’t think maybe winning Slams, matches at Slams is something I’m used to. Especially, this is my first main draw Roland Garros. When I’m on the court. I can act like I’m used to it. When I’m off the court, I’m just happy to be here.”

The clay-court Slam was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being held with damp temperatures in the 50s and has limited spectators to 1,000 per day.

“I’m pretty sure this is my first ever pro tournament, maybe even tournament in general, playing in weather like this,” said Gauff, noting she warmed up for 20 minutes before going on court so she could walk in with a sweat.

Gauff, the 2018 French Open junior champion, gets Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round after playing a match in leggings for the first time in about six years.

She’s coming off an impressive last year-plus, reaching the fourth round at the most recent Wimbledon and Australian Open. In between, she became the youngest WTA tournament champion since 2004. She recorded wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff will bid over the next nine months to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team outright by being among the top four Americans in WTA rankings after the 2021 French Open. Therefore, her result at this French Open will not count toward Olympic qualifying.

She is currently ranked 51st overall and eighth among Americans.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Sunday, Williams finished her 2020 with a third first-round loss in as many Grand Slam tournaments — 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams said she won’t play before next season starts in Australia.

Williams, 40 years old and ranked 76th, will need a scintillating start to 2021 to make the U.S. Olympic team in singles. She is currently the 14th-highest-ranked American. If she doesn’t make it in singles, Williams (or Gauff) could be chosen as a doubles-only player for the Tokyo Games.

Top seed Simona Halep took the last 10 games of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. Halep, who is on a 15-match win streak dating to February, could play Gauff in the quarterfinals.

On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka swept Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of three-time major champions and a rematch of their life-changing 2017 semifinal in Paris.

“I need to have a long, hard think about it,” Murray said. “I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it.”

It marked Murray’s first match on clay since that semi, won by Wawrinka in five sets. After that match three years ago, Wawrinka underwent two knee surgeries and Murray had two hip surgeries. Neither has made a Grand Slam semifinal since, and Murray nearly retired due to hip problems.

U.S. men went 3-0 on Sunday after winning one match total at the 2019 French Open.

The most notable victor: Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Czech 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda and brother of Nelly Korda, the world’s second-ranked female golfer.

Korda beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to become the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since 18-year-old Andy Roddick defeated Michael Chang in 2001.

Korda, after his first tour-level win, gets John Isner in the second round.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each trying to tie Grand Slam singles titles records, play first-round matches on Monday.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Julian Alaphilippe wins world road race title with late attack

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Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a road cycling world title in 23 years, attacking late and holding on to prevail by 24 seconds in Imola, Italy, on Sunday.

Alaphilippe, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for 16 stages between the last two years, went clear from a star-filled group at the top of the last climb with about eight miles left of a 160-mile day.

“It was a dream of my career, you know,” said Alaphilippe, whose best previous worlds finish was eighth. “I came here with, for sure, a lot of ambition. It’s just a dream day for me.”

Belgian Wout van Aert took silver, followed by Swiss Marc Hirschi in a five-man bunch sprint for the last two medals. Van Aert also earned silver in the time trial on Friday.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who was second in the Tour de France, finished sixth in the same time as the silver and bronze medalists after more than six and a half hours of racing.

The top American was Sepp Kuss in 52nd place, 12:35 behind.

Full results are here.

The last Frenchmen to win world titles were Laurent Brochard (road race) and Laurent Jalabert (time trial) in 1997.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour de France last Sunday, attacked with 26 miles left. He led by as much as 25 seconds before being reeled back in with about 13 miles to go.

The cycling season continues with the last two Grand Tours, each starting later than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro d’Italia begins Oct. 3, and the Vuelta a Espana starts Oct. 20, before the Giro finishes.

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