Michael Phelps becomes 1st U.S. male swimmer to make five Olympic teams

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Phelps surged to the wall, and then whipped around to spot his time.

That number wasn’t really important.

The only thing that mattered was No. 5.

Phelps became the first male swimmer to qualify for five Olympics with a victory in the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. swimming trials Wednesday night, another huge milestone in the water but even more significant given what’s happened away from the pool.

A second drunken-driving arrest. A re-evaluation of his life. An impending marriage. And his first child.

With 7-week-old Boomer in the arms of his mother at the CenturyLink Center, Phelps cruised to a victory that meant as much personally as all those triumphs that came before.

The most decorated athlete in Olympic history is Rio bound.

“With everything that’s happened and being able to come back, that was probably harder than any swim I’ve had in my life,” Phelps said. “Just being able to finish how I want to is so important to me. Getting on this team is what I wanted to do.”

Phelps held off a stiff challenge from Tom Shields to win the 200 fly – the first event Phelps ever swam at the Olympics, 16 years ago in Sydney.

ZACCARDI: Phelps’ goal in Rio to right a London wrong

One day before his 31st birthday, Phelps came full circle in the race he’s always considered his baby.

Phelps touched in 1:54.84 – far off the world record of 1:51.51 he set at the 2009 world championships while wearing one of the high-tech suits that have since been banned.

There’s time to work on his speed between now and Rio.

For now, Phelps sounds like an Olympic rookie talking about the thrill of going back to the Olympics, where he’ll get a chance to add to the already staggering amount of hardware he’s accumulated at the last four Summer Games: 18 golds and 22 medals overall.

He also joined a pretty exclusive group with Dara Torres, who made five Olympics on the female side.

“I just said, ‘Welcome to the club,'” the now-retired Torres said. “Just to see his emotions and how excited he was and relieved, it was really nice to see.”

Going along for the ride this time is Boomer, who wore noise-canceling headphones adorned with American flags so he wouldn’t be startled by the huge roar that went up when his daddy touched the wall first.

After the award ceremony, Phelps ran around the deck to find his fiance, Nicole Johnson, and their child. They all embraced at the edge of the stands, Phelps leaning in to kiss their boy while Nicole pulled the swimmer’s head close to her.

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

Phelps couldn’t help but reflect on his stumbles since London, most notably another DUI arrest in 2014 that prompted him to take a whole new look at his life. He reconnected with his long-estranged father, gave up alcohol and committed himself to closing his career with a flourish.

He had retired after London, but changed his mind.

This time, Phelps insists, it really will be his final Olympics.

“He can share this with his son one day,” said Torres, who competed at the Olympics after becoming a mother. “It makes the Olympic experience a little bit different when you have a child.”

Phelps still has two more events at the trials: the 100 fly and 200 individual medley. He could swim as many as six events in Rio, counting relays.

He wasn’t the only one feeling a bit of redemption Wednesday.

Missy Franklin turned in one of the gutsiest performances of her career to earn a spot for Rio in the 200 freestyle. While Katie Ledecky romped to victory, earning a second individual event at the Olympics, Franklin rallied over the second half of the race to claim the runner-up spot.

Elsewhere, Maya DiRado did it again. She qualified for a second individual event in Rio, winning the 200-meter individual medley in 2 minutes, 9.54 seconds. The Stanford graduate also made the team in the 400 IM.

DiRado plans to retire from the sport after Rio to work at the business analyst job that awaits her in Atlanta.

Grabbing the second spot for Rio was Melanie Margalis, who touched in 2:10.11.

In men’s breaststroke, Kevin Cordes is putting on quite a show. He made a run at the world record before settling for a time of 2 minutes, 7.81 seconds in the semifinals of the 200 meters.

He’ll be the top qualifier in Thursday’s final, looking to add another individual event to his Rio itinerary. He already won the 100 breast to clinch his first trip to the Olympics.

Cordes was under world-record pace at the last turn, but eased up to save some energy for the final. He’ll likely make a run at the mark of 2:07.01, which has been held since 2012 by Japan’s Akhiro Yamaguchi.

Also, Cammile Adams advanced to the 200-meter butterfly final. She swam the top qualifying time of 2 minutes, 7.31 seconds in the semifinals.

Earlier in the day, her disqualification in the preliminaries was overturned by officials after a video review showed that she was on her stomach and not her back as she came off the race’s last turn.

Also advancing to Thursday’s final was Hali Flickinger, who was second-quickest in 2:07.79. Kelsi Worrell, who is already going to her first Olympics, advanced to the final as fourth-fastest.

MORE: Olympic Trials: A look back at Phelps’ career (video)

Mondo Duplantis, Sandi Morris miss attempts at pole vault records

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Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis and U.S. athlete Sandi Morris took turns attempting world records in the pole vault Wednesday at the Meeting d’Athlétsime Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais meet at Arena Stade Regional in Liévin, France, but both were unable to clear the bar.

Duplantis, aiming to set the world record for third time in February, had no misses leading up to his record attempts. U.S. vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has won the last two world championships, cleared 5.90m but dropped out after one attempt at 5.95m. Duplantis passed on that height, then cleared 6.07m to warm up for his shot at 6.19m, just shy of 20 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

Morris’ attempt to tie Jennifer Suhr‘s world indoor record of 5.03m from 2016 was more of a surprise. Morris holds the U.S. outdoor record at 5.00m but had never done better than 4.95m indoors. She won Wednesday’s competition with a clearance of 4.83m and asked to go immediately to 5.03m, or 16 feet, 6 inches.

Yelena Isinbayeva still holds the outdoor record of 5.06m, set in 2009. Morris is second on the all-time list and is the only athlete other than Isinbayeva or Suhr to clear 5 meters either indoors or outdoors.

In the men’s pole vault, Duplantis’ clearance of 6.18m Feb. 15 in Glasgow is the best vault indoors or outdoors.  Sergey Bubka still has the highest clearance outdoors at 6.14m. Bubka also held the indoor record of 6.15m for more than 20 years, finally losing it to Renaud Lavillenie in 2014. Duplantis cleared 6.17m Feb. 9 in Poland, then added another centimeter last week in Glasgow.

READ: Duplantis raises record in Glasgow

Duplantis, Lavillenie and Bubka are the only vaulters to clear 20 feet. Kendricks cleared 6.06m, or 19-10 1/2, last summer, the highest outdoor clearance by anyone other than Bubka.

Duplantis grew up in Louisiana and attended LSU for one year, setting the NCAA indoor (5.92m) and outdoor (6.00m) before turning pro, though he was upset in the NCAA final by South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen.

Also at Wednesday’s meet:

Ronnie Baker ran 6.49 seconds in the 60m semifinals and lowered that to 6.44 in the final, second only to Christian Coleman this season. Demek Kemp finished second and tied his personal best of 6.50.

Nia Ali and Christina Clemons finished 1-2 in the women’s 60m hurdles with identical times of 7.92. Ali is the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the 100m hurdles. She also won world indoor titles in 2014 and 2016.

Two Ethiopian runners set the fastest times of the season Samuel Tefera in the 1,500m (3:35.54) and Getnet Wale in the 3,000m (7:32.80). Wale was fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase in the 2019 world championships.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, racing in his home country of France, won the 60m hurdles in 7.47, second this season to Grant Holloway‘s 7.38 last week.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour ends Friday in Madrid. The world indoor championships originally scheduled for March in Nanjing, China, have been postponed a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Susan Dunklee extends decade of surprises for U.S. biathletes

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When Susan Dunklee‘s time held up for second place in Friday’s 7.5km sprint, she became the first U.S. biathlete to win two world championship medals in her career and earned the sixth medal for the U.S. in world biathlon championship history.

Four of those medals have come in the past eight years.

First was Tim Burke, who had gained some fame among biathlon fans with his three World Cup podiums in the 2009-10 season and his relationship with German biathlete Andrea Henkel, who would win two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships before retiring and marrying Burke.

In that season, Burke led the World Cup briefly but faded and didn’t do well in the Olympics. But in 2012-13, he finished 10th in the World Cup overall and ended the American drought in the world championships, finishing second in the individual behind dominant French biathlete Martin Fourcade, who won his 11th non-relay world title Wednesday in the individual.

In 2017, Dunklee became the first U.S. woman to win a non-relay medal, taking the lead in the mass start after quickly knocking down all five targets in the last shooting and holding on for second. She didn’t come out of nowhere, having taken a few World Cup medals. That season, she ranked 10th overall in the World Cup.

Then came the stunner. Lowell Bailey, who had just one World Cup podium in a long career coming into the 2016-17 season, had bib 100 in the individual, a spot usually reserved for non-contenders. But he hit all 20 targets, always important in a race that penalizes athletes one minute per miss, and gutted it out through the last lap to keep a 3.3-second advantage and win the first world championship for a U.S. biathlete.

Like Dunklee, Bailey earned his medal in the midst of a strong season. The individual was won of his four top-10 finishes in the world championships, including a fourth-place finish in the sprint. He wound up eighth overall in the World Cup.

Bailey and Burke each stuck it out to compete in their fourth Olympics in 2018, then crossed the finish line together in their final race at the U.S. championships.

This season is their first in management. Bailey, also a bluegrass musician, is now U.S. Biathlon’s director of high performance. Burke is director of athlete development.

Dunklee, on the other hand, isn’t done. Her results slipped a bit after her 2017 breakthrough, but she has had some top 10s. When she shoots clean, as she did Friday, she’s a contender.

The first U.S. medal was in the first women’s world championship in 1984, when Holly Beatie, Julie Newman and Kari Swenson bronze in 3x5km relay. Swenson also finished fifth in the individual that year and returned to compete in the next two world championships after a harrowing experience in which she was abducted and shot, a story that inspired a film starring Tracy Pollan.

The only other U.S. medal in the world championships before Burke, Bailey and Dunklee was Josh Thompson‘s individual silver in 1987. The only athletes other than Burke, Bailey, Dunklee and Thompson to have World Cup podiums (excluding relays) are Jeremy Teela in 2009 and Clare Egan, who was third in a mass start last spring and is competing in the world championships this year.

U.S. Paralympians broke through with two gold medals on the first day of competition in the 2018 Paralympics.

READ: Kendall Gretsch, Dan Cnossen take gold

Wednesday saw another surprise finish for a U.S. biathlete. Leif Nordgren, whose career-best finish outside the relays is 16th, was the only athlete to go 20-for-20 on the shooting range and placed eighth in the individual.

The championships continue through through Sunday with the single mixed relay on Thursday, the men’s and women’s relays on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.

WATCH: World biathlon championships TV schedule

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