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Michael Phelps wins at Winter Nationals, eyes changing diapers

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Michael Phelps breezed to a victory at the U.S. Winter Nationals on Thursday night, but he knows more unfamiliar and perhaps more difficult tasks lie ahead.

Such as changing diapers.

“There are many things that could happen while changing a diaper, so if I can get in and get out safely, that’s all that matters,” Phelps joked in an interview with Carolyn Manno after winning the 200m individual medley in Federal Way, Wash.

Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist, is competing for the first time since he and fiancée Nicole Johnson announced they are expecting a baby.

Johnson was in attendance Thursday night to watch a clean-shaven Phelps prevail in 1:57.61, which is 1.69 seconds faster than his time at a meet in Minneapolis three weeks ago when he raced with a full beard.

Training partner Chase Kalisz was second in 1:58.77. World champion Ryan Lochte is not competing in Federal Way. Full Thursday results are here.

“The time was fine,” Phelps, who owns the fastest time in the world this year at 1:54.75 from August, told Manno. “The biggest thing is just being able to move forward throughout the season to really, hopefully set up a good time for Olympic trials [in late June/early July].”

Winter Nationals run through Saturday and will be streamed live the next two days on USASwimming.org/Nationals. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage Sunday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. ET.

In other events Thursday, longtime Phelps training partner Allison Schmitt swam her fastest 400m freestyle since she captured a 2012 Olympic silver medal in the event.

Schmitt, who failed to make this year’s World Championships team, touched in 4:06.88, ranking her third among Americans this year behind World champion Katie Ledecky (3:59.13) and Leah Smith (4:04.66). Neither Ledecky nor Smith is swimming at this weekend’s meet.

The top two at the U.S. Olympic trials on June 27 make the Rio Olympic team. Ledecky appears to be a lock for one of the berths.

Favorites Nathan Adrian and Simone Manuel swept the 50m freestyles Thursday. Neither bettered their nation-leading times from earlier this year. Missy Franklin clocked the 11th fastest time overall in the women’s 50m free, an event in which she’s not expected to vie for an Olympic spot.

Olympian Conor Dwyer took the men’s 400m free in 3:48.11, which was not an improvement on his best time this year. Connor Jaeger is the fastest American in the event for 2015 at 3:44.81. Dwyer is ranked No. 5.

In the women’s 200m IM, Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz was out-touched by Maya DiRado, 2:11.10 to 2:11.79. DiRado, the World silver medalist in the 400m IM, is ranked No. 4 in the world this year in the 200m IM and looking to make her first Olympic team next year.

MORE SWIMMING: Phelps, Ledecky win Golden Goggles for Athlete of the Year

Katie Ledecky swims fastest at U.S. Open from B final

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For what must have been the first time in seven years, Katie Ledecky failed to qualify for an A final in one of her primary events on Friday morning. No matter, she swam the fastest 200m freestyle at the U.S. Open from the B final at night.

Ledecky, owner of 20 combined Olympic and world titles, clocked 1:56.24 to win the B final by nearly three seconds in Atlanta. In the very next race, American record holder Allison Schmitt touched first in the A final in 1:56.47.

Full results are here. The final day of the meet airs live on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Ledecky has rarely lost domestically in freestyles from 200m through 1500m since she made her first Olympic team at age 15 in 2012.

She kept the streak intact, giving her a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in the first three days of the U.S. Open, what could be the deepest domestic meet before the Olympic trials in June.

Internationally, Ledecky faced challengers in the 200m free in this Olympic cycle, unlike the last one. Italian veteran and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won the last two world titles, with Ledecky missing the event this summer due to her mid-meet illness.

Ledecky ranks seventh in the world in the 200m free this year but likely would have been faster if she was able to race at her best at world champs.

Domestically, Simone Manuel has crept up, clocking 1:56.09 to lead off the 4x200m free relay at worlds to rank second among Americans in 2019. Manuel was the third-fastest American on Friday, recording 1:57.21, her fastest time ever outside of a major summer meet.

In other events Friday, Phoebe Bacon upset world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke. Bacon, who like Smith is 17 years old, overtook Smith in the last 25 meters and prevailed by .05 in 58.63. Bacon, while shy of Smith’s world record 57.57, took .39 off her personal best to become the fifth-fastest in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King dominated the 100m breaststroke, beating a strong field by .62 of a second in 1:05.65.

Chase Kalisz won a potential Olympic trials preview in the 400m individual medley in 4:13.07. Kalisz, the Rio silver medalist, held off 18-year-old Carson Foster by 1.69 seconds. Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic champion in the event, was fifth, 6.65 seconds behind.

Rio Olympian Townley Haas won the men’s 200m free in 1:45.92, his fastest time since August 2018. Haas, the 2017 World silver medalist, improved to the second-fastest American in the event this year behind Andrew Seliskar.

Torri Huske won the 100m butterfly on the eve of her 17th birthday. Huske clocked 57.48, taking .23 off her personal best to move from sixth fastest to third fastest in the U.S. this year.

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Ester Ledecka stuns again, wins World Cup downhill from bib No. 26

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Consider 26 a lucky number for Ester Ledecka.

Ledecka, the snowboard champion who stunningly captured the PyeongChang Olympic super-G from bib No. 26, won her first World Cup ski race on Friday — also from bib No. 26.

Ledecka was fastest in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta.

She kept Swiss Corinne Suter from her first World Cup win by .35 of a second. Austrian Stephanie Venier was third. Mikaela Shiffrin was 10th in her weakest discipline. Full results are here.

“I am for sure more shocked than everybody here,” Ledecka said. “I was a little bit, not disappointed about the run, but I was not super satisfied. Then I was really surprised about the time.”

Ledecka, an Olympic and world champion in Alpine snowboarding from the Czech Republic, had a previous best Alpine skiing World Cup finish of seventh. The top-ranked racers all go in the top 20 of the start list.

Last season, Ledecka raced more World Cup skiing events than snowboarding events for the first time. She was forced to choose between world championships in skiing and in snowboarding due to schedules and picked the former with a top finish of 15th.

She’s undecided about her upcoming schedule. She could continue on the Alpine skiing tour with a super-G in Switzerland next weekend, or she could fly to Italy for a snowboarding event.

The women race another downhill and a super-G in Lake Louise the next two days. A full TV and live stream schedule for the weekend races is here.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing season TV schedule