Michael Phelps looks to his past to fix his freestyle

Michael Phelps
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Last August, Michael Phelps proved that he’s still the world’s best swimmer in three races. But a fourth eludes him.

The 200m freestyle.

Phelps recently pored over video of his 200m freestyle victories at the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics.

He’s comparing his best all-time swims in the event to his (much slower) races of his two-year-old comeback.

Why? He lost his stroke. He’s trying to find it.

“I haven’t felt anywhere close to my stroke, before the last three weeks,” Phelps told media Thursday.

In his first race since the rediscovery, Phelps was ninth overall in the 200m freestyle preliminary heats at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday morning.

Eight hours later, Phelps went 2.42 seconds faster to win his consolation final in a time that would have placed third overall. The time — 1:48.21 — was .01 off Phelps’ best 200m free of his comeback.

“I see what I’m doing wrong, but it’s been hard for me to fix it,” Phelps said afterward. “It was really just stop overthinking it and go back to the basics. That’s what made me able to kind of feel like I can swim freestyle again. I think it’s helped a lot.”

Since the start of 2014, he’s fastest in the world in the 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley, all thanks to swims at last August’s U.S. Championships.

But in the 200m free, which he didn’t swim at Nationals in August, he ranks No. 14 among U.S. swimmers.

Phelps likely needs to drop into the 1:46 range by the Olympic Trials in June to earn a place on the Rio 4x200m freestyle relay team.

Trying to make the individual 200m free in Rio, by finishing top two at trials, may be too much of an ask.

“I would love to swim that race individually; I don’t know if I will,” Phelps said. “I wouldn’t swim that race unless I was 100 percent.”

The 200m freestyle has been the most fickle event of Phelps’ storied career.

In 2004, Phelps went against his coach’s suggestion and contested the 200m freestyle at the Olympics, finishing third in the “Race of the Century” behind Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband. He broke the American record.

In 2008, Phelps swam the best race of his life in the 200m freestyle final at the Beijing Olympics, breaking his world record by nine tenths of a second.

In 2012, Phelps edged Ryan Lochte in the 200m freestyle at the Olympic Trials. But he dropped the event off his London Olympic program, not wanting to attempt the same, daunting eight-event schedule as 2004 and 2008.

“The biggest thing that I really had tonight was I was able to get confidence back in that race,” Phelps said Thursday. “Because I haven’t really swam that race well in a really long time. … I don’t think I’ve swam a good individual 200m free since 2008.”

Racing continues in Mesa on Friday, with finals on NBC Sports Live Extra.

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2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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