Michael Phelps on possible comeback: ‘We’ll see if I have that itch again’

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Michael Phelps routinely laughed off comeback questions in a media tour Tuesday, but he still hopes to watch the world championships in person in July.

And who knows if that competitive desire will rekindle this summer like it did four years ago.

“The true test will be, if I do end up going over to the worlds this summer, do I have that itch again?” Phelps said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

In 2013, then-retired Phelps attended worlds wearing a boot on his right foot due to a stress fracture suffered from playing golf. He laughed off a question then from NBC’s Dan Hicks about whether he had completely closed the door on a comeback. 

Turns out, Phelps had already re-entered the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool (a sign of ending retirement) but wasn’t letting anyone in on that secret until November 2013.

Fast forward to now, and Phelps seems content not competing. He took his name out of drug testing in the fall.

Phelps attended last week’s USA Swimming meet in Mesa, Ariz., but didn’t race at the annual meet for the first time since 2013.

“It’s different now for me being on deck and watching compared to four years ago because I felt like I had the itch a little bit then, when I first retired,” Phelps said before a Today Show appearance Monday. “Now, I’m just like, yeah, I don’t miss it. I don’t miss getting in and warming up and being freezing when you get out of the pool or sitting at a meet for five or six hours a day. That’s not going to happen anymore.”

Phelps, who lives near Mesa with wife Nicole and 11-month-old son Boomer, spent the meet catching up with Olympic teammates Katie LedeckySimone ManuelLeah Smith and Nathan Adrian. And closely watching longtime training partner Chase Kalisz, whom he considers like a little brother.

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He flew to New York this week to promote sponsor Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts water-conservation campaign, urging all to turn faucets off while brushing their teeth.

“You can waste up to four gallons of water, that’s ridiculous,” Phelps said. “Boomer isn’t brushing his teeth yet. It’s something so simple and so easy that we’re going to end up teaching him.”

Phelps may accompany Kalisz and other active swimmers and former coach Bob Bowman on an upcoming camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Phelps routinely flew to Colorado during his career to train at altitude.

But this time, he would purely be there to assist Bowman’s coaching.

“I won’t be a Bob-type coach, ever,” Phelps said.

Instead, Phelps pores over videos for Bowman, analyzing strokes.

“I can’t break it down to the other athletes, but I can break it down to [Bowman], and then he can break it down,” Phelps said.

Phelps said he knows how Kalisz can drop another couple of seconds off his 400m individual medley and his 200m butterfly. Kalisz took silver in the 400m IM in Rio.

For now, Phelps still handles the constant comeback questions with smiles and chuckles.

“I’m waiting for the time where my son finally asks me why I’m not swimming anymore,” he said.

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MORE: Ledecky plans world champs schedule

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.”

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

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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