Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte close in on Olympic Trials showdown

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte
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(AP) — Longtime rivals Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps set up their lone showdown at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials by qualifying first and second in the 200-meter individual medley Thursday.

Lochte had the top time of 1 minute, 58.05 seconds in the preliminaries. He emerged from the pool limping as a result of the groin injury he suffered Sunday on the first day of trials. It has hampered his performances throughout the week. He has been getting treatment and tweaking the way he swims to compensate.

“I felt it on the first kick of breaststroke,” Lochte said. “I’ve just got to get a massage, rub it out and hopefully I’ll be better.”

Phelps was second fastest in 1:58.95 on his 31st birthday. His 7-week-old son, Boomer, sat on his mother’s lap in the stands during his heat.

“I feel older,” he said. “My muscles aren’t the same. They hurt a lot worse this morning.”

Lochte and Phelps advanced to the 16-man evening semifinals, along with Austin Surhoff, the son of former major league baseball player B.J. Surhoff. He was fifth fastest in 2:00.26. Also moving on was Michael Andrew, a 17-year-old who has already turned pro. He finished third in Phelps’ heat and ninth overall.

Lochte is already on the team as a relay swimmer based on his fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle. He wants to swim an individual event in Rio, and the 200 IM represents his last — and best — chance after he was third in the 400 IM, one spot out of a berth.

The 31-year-old dropped out of the 200 backstroke on Thursday to focus on the 200 IM.

“It was kind of hard watching it just because I love that event, but I did what’s best for me,” Lochte said.

Phelps made his record fifth Olympic team by winning the 200 butterfly Wednesday.

“I didn’t really sleep last night. I was wide awake at like 5 (a.m.),” he said. “I knew (coach) Bob (Bowman) was awake, so I started firing texts off to him, asking him questions. He pretty much just said, ‘Shut up and get ready for this morning,’ so I went back to sleep for a few hours.”

Four years ago in London, Phelps won gold and Lochte took silver in the 200 IM. Lochte won the event at last year’s world championships in Russia, where Phelps couldn’t compete while serving a suspension from USA Swimming after his second drunken driving arrest.

In other preliminaries, Jacob Pebley and defending Olympic champion Tyler Clary had the two fastest times in the 200 backstroke heats. Pebley was timed in 1:56.29 and Clary went 1:56.85 to make the evening semifinals. Ryan Murphy, the 100 back winner at trials, was third quickest in 1:57.35.

On the women’s side, teenager Abbey Weitzeil and 30-year-old Olympic veteran Amanda Weir were the two fastest in the 100 freestyle featuring a loaded field. Weitzeil qualified first in 53.58 seconds and Weir was second in 53.76.

Dana Vollmer was third quickest in 53.80 and Simone Manuel was fourth in 53.84.

Also advancing to the semifinals were Kelsi Worrell, Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal, Missy Franklin, Olivia Smoliga, Natalie Coughlin and Allison Schmitt.

In the 200 breaststroke, Micah Lawrence had the fastest time of 2:26.27. Breeja Larson was sixth quickest in pursuit of her second straight Olympic team.

ZACCARDI: Phelps motivated by watching toughest for first time

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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