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Sports Shorts: Phelps chalks up first win in comeback

Last updated on: May 17, 2014 16:52 IST

Sports Shorts: Phelps chalks up first win in comeback

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Michael Phelps was back in familiar waters and on top of the winner's podium in his comeback to competitive swimming at the US Grand Prix in Charlotte on Friday.

Competing for just the second time since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps ticked off all the important boxes he needed to.

In the morning heats, he tested his stamina by entering two lung-sapping events - the 200 metres freestyle and 100m butterfly - then in the evening finals, he tested his speed by winning the 100m butterfly final.

He also qualified for the 200m freestyle final but scratched from the race after achieving his goal in the heats - qualifying for this year's US national championships, which double as the selection event for next year's world titles in Russia.

His time in the 200m free was one minute 51.69 seconds, way below his best, but 0.2 seconds inside the US qualifying time.

"I thought Michael's 200 free was actually pretty good for the first one in a couple of years," Bowman told reporters.

"Now we have a real picture of where he is at. I think he could definitely do better."

Ryan Lochte at his comeback in suburban Phoenix last month but touched the wall first on Friday.

Lochte was not in the race, watching from the stands as he recovers from a knee injury, allowing Phelps to coast to victory.

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Image: Michael Phelps competes
Photographs: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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Saina, Kashyap lead as India eye quarters in Thomas and Uber Cup

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Touted as the World Cup of badminton, the Thomas and Uber Cup comes to India for the first time but despite promising to raise their game in home conditions, the country's shuttlers have kept their expectations realistic in the star-studded biennial event starting in New Delhi on Sunday.

In a tournament which has been dominated by Asian players from countries such as traditional powerhouse China, Indonesia and Malaysia, India have failed to come up with consistent performances over the years despite being among the top badminton nations in the 1950s and 60s.

This time too the Indian shuttlers are targetting at least the quarterfinals of the prestigious tournament.

India reached the final stage no more than eight times in Thomas Cup and three times in Uber Cup. Even in 1988, when the qualifiers were held in the Indian capital, India had reached the final stage, riding on the performance of Prakash Padukone, late Syed Modi and Vimal Kumar.

Later in 2000, Pullela Gopichand, the current national coach, helped India reach the final stage in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

India have been clubbed with Malaysia, South Korea and Germany in Thomas Cup and Thailand, Canada and Hong Kong in the Uber Cup.

While Kashyap and his team will start their campaign against a formidable Malaysia, Saina and Co. will look to set the ball rolling when they face Canada.

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Image: Saina Nehwal
Photographs: Indian Badminton League

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Messi, Barcelona agree improved contract, club says

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Barcelona and Lionel Messi have agreed an improved contract for the four-times World Player of the Year, the La Liga club said on Friday.

Barca did not publish details of the deal, which replaces the current contract that expired at the end of June 2018, but are expected to have enhanced Messi's status as one of the best-paid players in the game.

Local media reported Messi would be tied to the club a further year, to June 2019, and would be paid 20 million euros ($27 million) a season plus a possible five extra in performance-linked bonuses.

"FC Barcelona has reached an agreement to adjust the terms in the contract binding Leo Messi to the club as a professional first team player," Barca said in a brief statement.

"The revised and updated contract will be signed over the next few days," they added.

Argentine Messi is Barca's all-time top scorer with 354 goals in 424 official games and news of the deal is a boost for the Catalan club before Saturday's La Liga showdown against Atletico Madrid.

Since the 26-year-old made his official debut in the 2004-05 season, Barca have won 21 titles, including three Champions League triumphs and six La Liga crowns.

He joined Barca's academy at the age of 13 after a spell at Newell's Old Boys in his native Rosario.

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Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Robert Marquardt/Getty Images

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'Van Gaal, Giggs would be fantastic at United'

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Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel believes a combination of the experienced Louis van Gaal and Old Trafford hero Ryan Giggs would be ‘fantastic’ for the club, he said on Friday.

Netherlands manager Van Gaal again refused to confirm his intentions to reporters at the Dutch training headquarters on Friday but he is widely expected to take over at United after the World Cup.

Giggs, who finished the season as acting manager after David Moyes was sacked, could stay on as his assistant.

Former team mate Schmeichel, who played almost 400 games for United, and is now an ambassador for the club, told Sky Sports news: "What Manchester United need more than anything is someone with a clear direction.

"Van Gaal, everywhere he's been, has always had a clear direction.

"Some of the places he's been it's led to outright war.

"I don't think that's going to happen here."

The former Danish European Championship winner said Van Gaal had the required experience for a job that proved too much for Moyes but that Giggs's knowledge of the club would be invaluable to him.

"I think we have a certain way we want to be, Van Gaal has a certain way of playing and I think it's not far from each other," Schmeichel added.

"It's very important that we have someone who's extremely experienced with the best players in the world. If it's him and it looks like it, it's a good fit.

"Ryan Giggs has been mentioned as his number two and I think that would be a fantastic pairing.

"You've got the young prospect, who's been here all of his life, and the manager who's coming in with his own ideas and if you can combine those two things it's great.

"It's important there's someone next to him who understands what kind of football club this is."

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Image: Manchester United Caretaker Manager Ryan Giggs acknowledges the fans
Photographs: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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Luis Enrique to leave Celta amid Barcelona speculation

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Luis Enrique has stepped down as Celta Vigo coach midway through his two-year contract amid speculation he is poised to replace Gerardo Martino at Barcelona.

"The time has come to announce that I am not staying in Vigo next season," Luis Enrique told a news conference on Friday without giving away details of his future plans.

A former Barca and Spain midfielder, Luis Enrique took over from Pep Guardiola as coach of Barca's B team in 2008 before a brief and troubled stint at Serie A club AS Roma.

Celta hired him to replace Abel Resino in June and the Galician club have had a fine season under the 44-year-old, playing some of the most attractive football in Spain.

They are eighth with one game left and crowned their campaign with a 2-0 win at home to Real Madrid, another of Luis Enrique's former clubs, last weekend.

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Image: Luis Enrique
Photographs: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

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Derided in England, Asia Kean for former Blackburn boss

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A figure of fun during a painful spell with Blackburn Rovers, Steve Kean has rebounded to become a respected, man in demand having steered Brunei DPMM to the top of the S League in Singapore.

Kean's two-year reign at the former English champions was marred by routine fan protests against him and regular pot shots by the media before he was sacked in 2012 following relegation from the Premier League.

The Scot then opted to make the surprise move to Southeast Asia and signed a one-year deal with Brunei this season and has overseen 10 wins in their first 12 league matches to sit seven points clear in the 12-team division.

Local media reported that the early success had attracted the attention of wealthier clubs in Thailand but Brunei DPMM said the former Real Sociedad, Coventry City and Fulham assistant coach was going nowhere.

"I have read the report about it but as for now I can tell you that Steve Kean is still the head coach for DPMM FC and he is still under contract with us," Brunei DPMM official Pg Waslimin PSJ Pg Hj Abdul Momin told Saturday's Brunei Times.

"We are doing well now in the league and I think this report is just trying to cause disorder. For now we are only going to focus on our football."

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Image: Steve Kean the manager of Blackburn Rovers
Photographs: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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Wiggins extends lead at Tour of California

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Bradley Wiggins extended his Tour of California lead on Friday to close in on the title while Colombian Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio claimed stage six.

Tour de France winner Wiggins began the day with a 28-second lead overall but pushed it to 30 after finishing fifth with two stages left. Chaves set the pace by finishing in four hours, nine minutes and 13 seconds ahead of Spaniard David De La Cruz Melgarejo and third-placed American Tom Danielson.

The race continues on Saturday with a 143-kilometer stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena.

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Image: Bradley Wiggins
Photographs: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

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Tour apologises for upset caused after caddie's death

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The European Tour has apologised to the Caddies Association for the ‘hurt and upset’ caused following the sudden death of bagman Iain 'Mac' McGregor at the Madeira Islands Open on Sunday.

The tour has been criticised for continuing with the Madeira event after the 52-year-old Zimbabwean, caddying for Scotland's Alastair Forsyth, died of a heart attack during the final round.

The tournament was briefly halted but then resumed after discussions with players and bagmen.

Tour chief executive George O'Grady travelled to this week's Spanish Open in Girona to hold talks with the Caddies Association in a meeting that was also attended by Players Tournament Committee chairman Thomas Bjorn.

"We had a full and frank meeting with (Association) chairman Gerry Byrne and his committee, a meeting which was understandably emotional at times and one during which I apologised to them for the hurt and upset caused by events in Madeira," O'Grady said in a statement on Saturday.

O'Grady also paid tribute to the dignity shown by twice tour winner Forsyth.

Players and caddies have been encouraged to wear 'Black for Mac' in the first round of the BMW PGA Championship in England on Thursday as a mark of respect.

The Wentworth competition is the tour's flagship event.


Image: Markus Brier of Austria with caddy Iain McGregor
Photographs: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

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