Michael Phelps’ influence out of pool impacts Olympic Trials results

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Phelps wasn’t competing on opening night of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials. Still, the 18-time gold medalist’s influence impacted the results in the 400-meter individual medley, an event he once dominated.

With a proud Phelps looking on, his training partner Chase Kalisz (KAY-lish) won the final Sunday night, becoming the first swimmer to make the team for the Rio Games. Kalisz overtook defending Olympic champion Ryan Lochte for the lead on the breaststroke leg and went on to win in 4 minutes, 9.54 seconds.

Kalisz has admired Phelps since they both swam at North Baltimore Aquatic Club under coach Bob Bowman. Back then, Kalisz was a pesky kid and Phelps was already an Olympic champion. Kalisz and his teammates would twirl the spinners on the wheels of Phelps’ tricked-out Escalade in the parking lot at a local meet when the superstar swimmer wasn’t around.

“He would come out and catch us all and set off his car alarm, and we would freak out and run,” Kalisz recalled.

He and his co-conspirators wheedled multiple autographs out of Phelps which they traded for T-shirts from other swim teams.

“He’s a brother to me,” said Phelps, who at 30 is eight years older than Kalisz.

The relationship has flourished in the Arizona desert, where Phelps moved to continue training with Bowman, who became head coach at Arizona State last year. Kalisz took a year off of school at Georgia to join them in pursuit of his first Olympics.

Phelps is attempting to swim at his fifth and last Olympics. He was a two-time gold medalist in the 400 IM before finishing fourth in the London Games four years ago. He’s dropped the grueling event from his program, so seeing Kalisz win the race and keep it in the NABC family moved him to tears in the stands.

“I know Chase is very determined,” Phelps said. “I’ve watched him, I train with him every day, and the kid works his butt off.”

Phelps’ future retirement plans include becoming a volunteer assistant under Bowman at ASU. He’s testing his coaching skills on Kalisz, and sometimes it gets a little rough.

“When Michael gets on you, it’s pretty severe,” Bowman said. “It’s kind of nonstop for a while. When I do, it’s like a nuclear bomb got dropped on your head for about 2 1/2 minutes, but after that it’s over. Michael kind of keeps it going.”

Kalisz considers himself lucky to have Phelps, whom he describes as “the greatest swimmer of all time,” and Bowman giving tips.

“I’m very hard on him,” Phelps said. “There was a time when he actually asked Bob if I could back off a little bit. I just see potential and I want him to be the best he can be. He made some incredible improvements this year.”

It paid off during the first race at trials in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd at CenturyLink Center.

Kalisz was third through the opening 150 meters before moving up to second behind Lochte, who later said he pulled his groin in the morning preliminaries. Just as he did in prelims, Kalisz overtook Lochte on the breaststroke leg and stayed in front to the finish.

“I don’t have a fly and backstroke like him, so I got to play to my strengths,” Kalisz said. “I knew what I needed to do was build the first 50 breaststroke, like I talked to Michael and Bob about, and just hammer it as hard as I can coming home on the 150.”

Phelps found his way to Kalisz after the race and conveyed his pride.

“That was just a very emotional moment,” Kalisz said. “Michael has been like an older brother to me that I never had. He’s been the one guy that I’ve looked up to my entire life. I’ve never had a role model as big as him.”

Phelps watched the race from the media section, where he provided commentary for NBC. He touted unknown Jay Litherland as someone to watch over the last 100 meters, and it turns out the winningest Olympian in history was right.

Litherland finished second in 4:11.02 and claimed the other berth for Rio.

“He trained with us a little bit in Colorado when we were up there at altitude,” Phelps said. “The kid can swim. He closes races really well.”

MORE: For Phelps at Trials, nothing is a lock

Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

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Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo’s agency said she plans to return to sprinting, but they don’t yet have a timeline of her plans.

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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