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Five women’s races to watch at U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

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With 26 events over eight days, there will be plenty to watch at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, starting Sunday on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Here are five women’s events to focus on:

Women’s 100m freestyle – July 1
Three 19-year-olds will battle some Olympic veterans for six Olympic berths (only two individually, though), and some vets who are not necessarily freestyle specialists. The top seed is Simone Manuel, who clocked in at 53.25 as a 17-year-old at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. Seeded second will be Missy Franklin (53.68), the reigning Olympic 100 and 200 backstroke champ. Third is reigning Olympic 100 butterfly champ Dana Vollmer (53.59). Then there’s 19-year-old Katie Ledecky (53.75), who won gold at the 2015 Worlds in every freestyle event longer than 100 meters, and another 19-year-old, Abbey Weitzeil (53.77). A relay spot could go to 33-year-old Natalie Coughlin, who has won 12 Olympic medals, two of which were in the 100 free (bronze in 2004 and ’08).

TRIALS: Broadcast ScheduleEntry Lists
PREVIEWS: Men | Women
FIVE KEY RACES: Men | Women

Women’s 200m freestyle – June 29
The 200 free will be similarly loaded with big names battling for six spots. Ledecky is the favorite after winning the event at the 2015 Worlds and posting the world’s second-fastest time so far this year (1:54.43). Franklin won bronze at last year’s Worlds in 1:55.49, seventh-fastest since the start of 2015. And Allison Schmitt is the defending Olympic gold medalist. She won in London in 1:53.61, but her best time since January 2015 is 1:56.23. Manuel, seeded ninth, could vie for a berth here as well.

Women’s 100m backstroke – June 28
This one could come down to Franklin and Coughlin. Franklin is the defending Olympic champion, winning the London 100 back in 58.33; she placed fifth at the 2015 Worlds in 59.40, tops among Americans. Coughlin, however, holds the fastest American time since the start of 2015 (59.05). She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist in this event (2004 and ’08), but was edged out at the 2012 Trials by Franklin and then-18-year-old Rachel Bootsma, whose recent times leave her a longshot in the event at this year’s Trials.

Women’s 400m individual medley – June 26
Maya DiRado, 23, looks set to make her Olympic debut after winning silver in the 400 IM at the 2015 Worlds in 4:31.71, the second-fastest time in the world since the start of 2015. Close behind is Elizabeth Beisel, who posted 4:31.99 at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, and won silver at the London Games with a time of 4:31.27. Caitlin Leverenz also took part in that Olympic final, placing sixth (4:35.49); her best mark since is 4:35.46. And Ledecky will be seeded fifth in this race, though she is unlikely to have designs on swimming it in Rio.

Women’s 200m butterfly – June 30
Cammile Adams made her Olympic debut four years ago after winning this event at Trials, and then finished fifth in London (2:06.78). She dropped her time to 2:06.40 and won silver at the 2015 Worlds, and her best mark since January 2015 is 2:06.33, fifth in the world. She’ll be challenged at Trials by 18-year-old Katie McLaughlin, who placed sixth at Worlds last year in 2:06.95, the world’s 11th-best time in the past two years. DiRado and Hali Flickinger could also contend for that second spot.

UCI looks for new host for 2020 World Road Cycling Championships

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The International Cycling Union (UCI) is looking for a new host for the 2020 World Road Cycling Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland can no longer host the week-long event in late September after a national decision to extend a ban on events with more than 1,000 people through next month.

Amid reports the competition has been canceled, the UCI clarified Wednesday that it still hopes to hold it in some form, perhaps without some of the junior or senior races.

It now seeks an “alternative project,” preferably still in Europe and on the same dates (Sept. 20-27).

Worlds were due to start in Switzerland on the same day that the rescheduled Tour de France ends, though the senior elite men’s races are typically not on the first three days.

The Tour de France is still scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Last year, American Chloe Dygert starred at road worlds, winning the time trial in dominant fashion. Other world champions in Olympic events: Annemiek van Vleuten (road race), Rohan Dennis (time trial) and Mads Pedersen (road race).

MORE: Chloe Dygert had the most dominant ride in history. It still drives her nuts.

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Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

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In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

MORE: Meet Arnie the Terminator, Katie Ledecky’s top rival

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