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Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin end Winter Nationals with wins

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A little more than six months ago, Michael Phelps competed in five finals in a Charlotte meet, finished no better than third and used the words “horrendous” and “pretty garbage” to describe his swimming.

This past weekend, Phelps won all three of his finals at the U.S. Winter Nationals, ending the meet Saturday night by running away in the 200m butterfly in 1:56.11, which was 4.53 seconds faster than he swam the event at the lousy Charlotte meet.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Winter Nationals coverage Sunday from 1-2 p.m. ET.

“These are just stepping stones,” Phelps told media in Federal Way, Wash. “The fastest I went last year [in the 200m butterfly] was like 1:58, 1:57, so I know that I’m ahead of where I was last year. … It was a struggle in-season last [spring]. I can remember a couple of meets where I was beyond frustrated. I think in Charlotte I was two minutes, and I was irate. I’m just keeping everything in order and taking it step by step. It seems like a long time before trials, but it’ll be here before we know it.”

Phelps also won the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley in Federal Way. He is the fastest in the world this year in all three of those events, thanks to times when he was peaked for the U.S. Championships in August.

He showed improvement in Federal Way from a meet in Minneapolis three weeks earlier. In Minneapolis, younger training partner Chase Kalisz ran down Phelps to steal the 200m butterfly. On Saturday, Phelps outsplit Kalisz in the last 50 meters and won by 1.08 seconds.

“It makes me hungrier and hungrier to get back in the pool to grind even harder, to get to a place I can dream right now,” Phelps said. “Even though I did win, and I swam good times, there are better times that I can swim for Olympic trials.”

Also Saturday, Missy Franklin completed a backstroke sweep by taking the 200m back in 2:07.87, which was .63 slower than she clocked in Minneapolis.

Also at the meet, Franklin lost to Allison Schmitt in a 200m freestyle for the first time since the London Olympics and, later Saturday, placed fourth in the 100m freestyle, .71 behind winner Simone Manuel.

Olympic 100m backstroke champion Matt Grevers swept the backstrokes like Franklin by taking the 200m in 1:57.24, his fastest time in the longer distance since 2009.

Grevers, though, said after the meet that he’s leaning toward complementing his favored 100m back with the 100m free rather than the 200m back moving forward.

His 200m back time Saturday put him No. 5 among Americans for the year. The top two at the Olympic trials on July 1 make the Olympic team.

“I was hoping to go 1:56, and I think that might have shown some potential for the future,” Grevers told media in Federal Way. “With 1:57, I don’t think there’s any room to make a team with that [for an Olympics], or even if I dropped a couple of seconds. I think you’re going to need to hit 54s.”

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian finished third in the 100m freestyle.

Franklin will fly to Indianapolis this week to compete at Duel in the Pool, along with Ryan Lochte, among others, in a Ryder Cup-style meet against European All-Stars on Friday and Saturday.

Phelps won’t compete at Duel in the Pool but is expected to be at the next Pro Swim Series meet at Austin, Texas, from Jan. 15-17.

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

Swimming short-course records in peril as FINA recognizes ISL times

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In the debut season of the International Swimming League, six U.S. short-course records have fallen. USA Swimming has recognized the new circuit’s times from the outset.

International body FINA, which at first threatened to ban swimmers who participated in the ISL and then said it would not recognize records from the team-based league, which debuted in October and will hold its first final meet Dec. 20-21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is now recognizing those times, and the effects on its statistics have been drastic.

MORE: Ledecky sets U.S. record in ISL debut

This morning, a downloaded list of the top times in the world this year included no ISL times. By the afternoon, times from the ISL’s meet over the weekend in College Park, Md., accounted for most of the times on the lists, including the top 10 in the women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 100m freestyle.

So far, the ISL hasn’t figured into the top five on many all-time FINA lists. But the best short-course times are typically posted near the end of the year, and the ISL has two meets remaining.

The U.S. record book has already changed. In October, Katie Ledecky set the 400m freestyle record (3:54.06) and Melanie Margalis set the 200m medley mark (2:04.18).

In College Park this weekend, Margalis also set the U.S. 400m medley record (4:24.46) and Ian Finnerty set two records the 50m breaststroke (25.99), with runner-up Michael Andrew also beating the previous record, and the 100m breaststroke (56.29). Also, Caeleb Dressel set the 50m butterfly record (22.21).

Only half of the swimmers in the ISL will advance to the final, and qualification isn’t necessarily in their hands. After the College Park meet, the Cali Condors and LA Current clinched spots in Las Vegas. That’s bad news for Andrew (New York Breakers), Finnerty (DC Trident) and Ledecky (DC Trident).

Dressel, Margalis and Lilly King — all representing the Condors — will have another shot at records in Vegas. 

FINA, as usual, is running its World Cup circuit during the fall and early winter, and some swimmers — including overall World Cup champions Vladimir Morozov and Cate Campbell — are pulling double duty between the World Cup and ISL.

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IOC announces deal with Airbnb to add housing for future Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee has moved to help with the scramble to house the influx of athletes, staff and spectators with each Olympics, making a deal with online housing broker Airbnb to add accommodations for the Games through 2028.

“The agreement includes accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organizers and stakeholders, minimize the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities,” the IOC announced.

Airbnb’s partnership also includes accommodation for disability athletes for the Paralympic Games, and the company will join large global companies such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Panasonic as worldwide Olympic partners.

Athletes also will have a chance to make money by hosting travelers.

“As an Olympian host, you can create and lead an experience inspired by your expertise and interests,” reads an explanation on the Olympic athlete support portal Athlete365.

Outside the Olympics and Olympic athlete experiences, the IOC and Airbnb are pledging to work together on long-term support to refugees.

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