Refreshed Michael Phelps remembers frustration in return to Austin

Michael Phelps
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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

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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