Michael Phelps
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Refreshed Michael Phelps remembers frustration in return to Austin

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The new, open, revitalized Michael Phelps felt a little frustrated warming up at the University of Texas pool on Thursday, ahead of this weekend’s Pro Swim Series meet in Austin.

“I remember those feelings that I had last year,” Phelps said.

In January 2015, Phelps was on the pool deck in Austin. But he wasn’t part of any races.

The 22-time Olympic medalist was in the middle of a six-month suspension following his Sept. 30, 2014, DUI arrest. He had spent 45 days in an Arizona treatment facility the previous fall and was one month removed from pleading guilty to drunken driving in a Baltimore court.

So why did he travel to Austin when he wasn’t allowed to compete?

“So I could, train, really, be back in the meet environment,” Phelps told media in Austin on Thursday, before looking to his right at longtime coach Bob Bowman. “I don’t know if he [Bowman] had some other little secret.”

“Apparently is was motivational on some levels,” Bowman said, turning to Phelps and eliciting laughs at a news conference.

“I don’t think I needed much more motivation,” Phelps replied.

The picture of the suspended Phelps standing on the Austin deck last year and watching the 200m freestyle, standing right behind U.S. national team director Frank Busch, hasn’t left the swimmer.

Phelps knew then that he wouldn’t be joining Busch and his teammates at the World Championships at the end of the season, either.

“Didn’t really know what to expect at the end of the year after seeing where we were at that point,” Phelps said Thursday. “It frustrated me not being able to be there and knowing that I wasn’t going to be there at the end of the year to help out as much as I could.”

This week, Phelps returned to Austin, where he broke his first world record in 2001, as arguably the best swimmer in the world.

In August, Phelps clocked the fastest times since 2009 in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the best of the year in the 200m individual medley.

He’s entered in those three events plus the 100m and 200m freestyles in the Austin meet from Friday through Sunday.

Finals are at 7 ET each night. USASwimming.org will live stream all sessions, while NBC Sports Live Extra will live stream Saturday and Sunday’s finals.

Phelps is expected to swim the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m IM at the Olympic trials in June and July and perhaps also the 100m and 200m freestyles, at the very least to prove he belongs on the Olympic 4x100m and 4x200m free relays. That would give him six events at the Rio 2016 Olympics, including the 4x100m medley relay.

Bowman said Phelps has the potential at his final meet in Rio to break his 100m and 200m butterfly world records from 2009 and approach Ryan Lochte‘s 200m IM world record, according to The Associated Press.

Austin comes first.

“I’m a hell of a lot happier being here and being able to swim,” said Phelps, who shares the spotlight with the rest of U.S. swimming’s Big Four — Katie LedeckyMissy Franklin and Lochte — this weekend. “Last year I came here and was swimming in the diving well and swimming in the competition pool in between sessions, and standing and watching swimming when I want to be in isn’t fun.”

MORE SWIMMING: Phelps to coach in retirement

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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