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Michael Phelps joins gold medalists in swim race, but no comeback

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CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Phelps pumped his right fist upon completing the final leg for the winning relay team ahead of Australian great Grant Hackett on Saturday.

It was another golden moment for the winningest Olympic athlete in history, though don’t expect to see him competing on the world’s biggest stage again.

Phelps all but slammed the door on another return after leaving it ever-so slightly ajar in an interview with The Associated Press last month.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I think four years ago, I wasn’t. I think being able to come back and being able to finish how I did and being able to get back to where I wanted to get to – for me, at this point in my life and in my career, that’s all I can ask for. Right?” he said.

“I wanted to have a chance to kind of shut out the `what if’ 20 years down the road. Now, I think 20 years down the road I think I’ll be able to look back and say I’m really happy that I took that opportunity to come back and swim in one more (Olympics).”

Phelps was considering a comeback when he attended the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. By the time it ended, there was no doubt in his mind he would be competing in his fifth Olympics.

In Rio de Janeiro last summer, he got the closure he needed. And if that’s it for him, he sure went out in style.

At age 31, Phelps captured five more gold medals, bringing his total to 23, along with a silver. He swam the second leg in the 4x100m freestyle relay in his final race and put the United States out front for good against a powerful field that included defending champion France, Australia and Russia.

The stakes weren’t quite as high on Saturday.

Phelps was in Chicago to announce a partnership between his foundation and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to promote safety in the pool.

Phelps and fellow Olympians Allison Schmitt and Hackett gave members of the Special Olympics Chicago Aquatics team and children from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago swimming lessons, and the three also swam final legs of a relay race with the Special Olympians.

He also addressed the participants and fielded questions from them before signing autographs and taking a big group selfie.

Retirement, he insisted, is suiting him just fine.

“I’m retiring because it’s time to move on,” Phelps said. “I spent most of my life in the swimming pool. … I have some other goals that I want to accomplish outside of the pool. It’s not the end of my swimming career, it’s the start of something else. I’ll always be around the pool. I’ll always be around the sport. I’m ready to move on. Sometimes, it just happens.”

He’s enjoying spending more time with his wife Nicole and their 1-year-old son Boomer. He has a new sponsorship deal with Colgate in which he’s promoting water conservation and he travels frequently for his various business interests and causes.

“I have no desire to swim 14,000 to 15,000 yards in a day,” Phelps said, referring to his training regimen. “That just doesn’t sound fun to me. I went to swim meets and I was just like, `I’m really happy I’m watching and not competing.”‘

Phelps said he swam 300 yards on Friday. It was his first time in the pool in about a month. Compare that to a training regimen of swimming about 40 to 60 miles a week.

“For 15 years, that’s a long time,” he said. “I want to have my body when Boomer’s 10. I’d like to be able to have shoulders that work; they’re not all banged up from all the training.

“It’s just time for me to move on and spend more time with the family – but also be able to work more directly with the foundation. Working more with mental health. Being able to do all these things that I’m so passionate about, that can change or help somebody’s life.”

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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