Michael Phelps
Getty Images

Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin beaten in Olympic Trials tune-up meet

Leave a comment

Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin appear to have their work cut out at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month to earn spots on Rio 4x100m freestyle relays.

Phelps and Franklin both swam their fastest 100m freestyles of 2016 in a trials tune-up meet in Austin, Texas, on Friday night, but neither posted a time that ranks in the top five among Americans in the event this year.

Phelps won the Austin men’s 100m freestyle in 49.49 seconds (full results here) against a field that did not include the top Americans in the event. He is ranked eighth in the U.S. Usually, the top six finishers in the 100m free at the Olympic Trials earn Olympic 4x100m free relay berths.

Phelps later was beaten in the 100m butterfly in Austin by Joseph Schooling of Singapore, 51.58 to 51.65, but Phelps remains fastest among Americans in the fly this year.

“Kind of happy, kind of not,” Phelps said in a Facebook video. “It’s decent, but I’m always really very hard on myself. … Today was a little motivating. … I would have been a lot happier if I was a half-second faster in both of the 100s today.”

The fastest Americans in the 100m free this year are Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.00) and University of Florida rising junior Caeleb Dressel (personal-best 48.74 in a different meet Friday). But no other American has broken 49 seconds, leaving a wide opening for Phelps and others.

Phelps has made the Olympic 4x100m free relay in the past without swimming the 100m free at trials, but given his lack of impressive 100m free times since the start of 2015, he may have to post a strong time in Omaha in three weeks to prove he deserves a relay spot.

His coach, Bob Bowman, is the U.S. Olympic men’s head coach. The coaching staff determines relay lineups at the Olympics.

In the Austin women’s 100m freestyle, Allison Schmitt won in 54.30 seconds, her fastest time since the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Franklin took second in 54.56, her fastest time this year but just ninth-fastest among Americans for 2016.

Franklin made the 100m freestyle final at every major international meet from 2012 through 2015, but she goes into the Olympic Trials as an underdog in the weakest of her four primary events. Dana Vollmer and Katie Ledecky have the fastest U.S. 100m freestyle times in 2016 at 53.59 and 53.75.

In other meets Friday, China’s Sun Yang won a 200m freestyle in Santa Clara, Calif., in 1:44.82, the fastest time in the world since 2013. Sun is the reigning Olympic 400m and 1500m free champion and earned silver in London in the 200m free.

Sun could now be favored to become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m and 1500m frees at one Olympics.

MORE: Phelps eyes at least three events at Olympic Trials

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Ryan Lochte was not competing this weekend. He is swimming at a small meet in Charlotte.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!