Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps looks to his past to fix his freestyle

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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.

MORE: Shane Gould sees a bit of herself in Katie Ledecky

Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

Hayato Sakamoto
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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.

Sky Brown, 11-year-old Olympic skateboard hopeful, suffers serious injuries in fall

Sky Brown Skateboard Fall
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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old British Olympic skateboarding hopeful, recently suffered her worst fall, requiring surgery, she said in a video posted from a hospital bed.

Brown suffered skull fractures and broke her left wrist and hand and was at first unresponsive upon arrival to a hospital, according to the BBC, which quoted her father.

Video of the fall from a skateboarding ramp was posted on her social media. She appeared to be wearing a helmet in the video.

“I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them because I want people to see the fun in what I do,” Brown said. “But this was my worst fall, and I just want everyone to know that, it’s OK, don’t worry. I’m OK. It’s OK to fall sometimes. I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world right now. I want everyone to know that whatever we do, we’ve just go to do it with love and happiness.”

Brown is the 2019 World bronze medalist in the new Olympic sport’s park discipline.

Later Tuesday, Brown reposted an Instagram post from what appeared to be her father’s account. The caption of that post said Brown fell 15 feet to flat concrete.

“I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital,” the caption read. “We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive.

“4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks.”

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Last week the worst thing I could ever ever imagined happened to @skybrown . She fell about 15ft off the side of a vert ramp to flat concrete. I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital. We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive. We prayed and begged God to give Sky another chance. Word came back while she was still unconscious, multiple fractures to her skull, a broken left arm, which she broke into pieces because she used it to break her fall, broken right fingers and lacerations to her heart and lungs. 4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks. More importantly her Doctors and the trauma team say it’s a miracle how well she is dealing with the pain and recovering incredibly fast. They said it’s shocking and believe it’s because of her grit, positivity and attitude. Skys brother @oceanbrown has been so brave. He saw his sister fall to the ground lying in a pool of blood and was screaming in tears that night outside of the hospital. He has still not allowed into the hospital to see her. They miss each-other dearly, but no siblings are allowed to enter the hospital because of coronavirus. They’ve been spending hours a day on FaceTime with each other making funny faces to one another in fits of giggles and laughter. Sky promises Ocean daily that she will make a fast recovery so they can be together again. Sky is constantly joking and smiling and it’s hurts my heart to even imagine for a second a world without Sky; extremely thankful that I don’t have to. Thank you to the heroes that are the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have tirelessly worked on her and helped her get to this point.

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