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Michael Phelps: I wasn’t 100 percent at Beijing Olympics

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Michael Phelps believes he can do something at the Rio 2016 Olympics that he did not when he won eight gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Games — compete at 100 percent.

“I’m motivated to go see what I really can do actually giving 100 percent,” Phelps said Wednesday, commenting on his work ethic in training. “’08, ’12, I wasn’t 100 percent at either one of those Games.”

Longtime coach Bob Bowman, seated next to Phelps, interrupted.

“See, he could have won nine [gold medals],” Bowman said of Beijing 2008.

“Please don’t write that,” Phelps responded.

“I’m just kidding,” Bowman said.

Phelps and Bowman reminisced ahead of the U.S. Winter Nationals in Federal Way, Wash., his next meet en route to what they hope are Phelps’ fifth Olympics in eight months.

The meet runs Thursday through Saturday and will be streamed live on USASwimming.org/Nationals. NBC will air TV coverage Sunday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. ET.

“Part of what happened in 2008 is starting to set in a little bit,” said Phelps, who has said this year that he’s in better shape now that at any time since 2008 and perhaps better than in 2008. “I don’t know how long it’ll take. I never knew how long it would take, but I knew it would take some time to fully set in what really happened — eight for eight in 2008. I’m starting to feel a little bit now, but I think, probably, once I’m done and actually have the time to sit down and look back on my full career, I think it’ll really set in.”

Phelps will most certainly not try to duplicate his eight-gold performance in 2016. A six-event slate is more realistic.

This week, he will swim in Federal Way for the first time since the 2000 Spring Nationals, when a 14-year-old Phelps finished third in the 200m butterfly.

At that meet, Phelps said he ate all 21 of his meals in a seven-day stretch at the same restaurant — Mitzel’s American Kitchen — including clam chowder and cheesecake with every meal, according to his biography.

Though Phelps’ performance at that meet 15 years ago caused Bowman to first say to himself, “He’s going to make the Olympic team,” according to the biography, Phelps on Wednesday remembered the 200m fly defeat as “an absolute beatdown” and recalled his finishing time to the second.

“The thing that made me so hungry was I wanted to beat every single one of them,” Phelps said of the veterans that topped him in 2000. “Right now, I am the old man. … I’d like to not let the young bucks beat me.”

Phelps has suffered plenty of defeats this year, most to younger swimmers, but not in the races that mattered most. He clocked the fastest times in the world this year in the 100m and 200m butterflies and the 200m individual medley at the U.S. Championships in August.

Phelps said people approach him more after his comeback from a DUI arrest and treatment program last year, showing his human side in a Sports Illustrated cover story and subsequent interviews.

But the kids are still in awe.

Phelps said he walked into an elevator holding two younger swimmers earlier Wednesday, and they moved into the back corners of the vast cell.

“Am I really that scary?” Phelps, who recently moved to Arizona and trained in an Arizona State Sun Devils logo swim cap Wednesday, joked. “Are people really that afraid of me?”

As for the competition, Phelps won’t be facing his top rivals in the butterflies and individual medleys. He’ll focus on goal times, perhaps going faster than at a Minneapolis meet last month.

“It was a good place to start,” Phelps said of Minneapolis. “Bob and I know what we need to change throughout the year to be able to get to a time that I would like to get to before we go to trials.”

Phelps notched one race win over five finals in Minneapolis, beaten by younger swimmers every time.

“I notice some of the younger guys don’t have as much [early-race] speed as I do … but they just come home [at the end of the race] a lot faster than me,” he said.

When will Phelps stop trying to beat the kids and step away from swimming?

“What’s the last day of the [Rio] Olympics?” Phelps quipped. “That’s 100 percent the last one. Some of the Aussies are joking that I still have four more years because [Australian Olympic champion] Grant [Hackett]‘s still at 35 going. It’s not happening.”

FLASHBACK: Michael Phelps’ Olympic debut in 2000

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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