Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin knows she must be careful as she starts freshman year at Cal

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Cal held a press conference for its most famous incoming freshman on the eve of the fall semester Wednesday.

Welcome to the world of Missy Franklin, four-time Olympic champion and, about to be, college student. She is not your average freshman, and she knows it. That’s why she and her swim team and her school are taking extra care.

“There are so many things we have to consider and we have to think about,” she said in a room at the Cal football team’s Memorial Stadium while wearing a navy blue Cal swim team shirt and shining golden fingernails. “My parents have taught me so well. We’re talked to (Cal swim) coach Teri (McKeever) a lot, and we’re very aware of everything that we need to be aware of, and I feel very confident going into school and starting this new experience.

“We’re aware of everything, and we’re aware of what’s happening, and I feel even though there might be that microscope I can have as normal of a college experience as I can.”

Franklin said she has to be aware about posting pictures on social media of where she is, the kind of personal information freely floated by many of her new peers. She wouldn’t disclose which classes she was taking, and the name of her freshman dorm roommate is being held private, too.

The Associated Press expanded:

There have been conversations with police and campus security, and guidance on how to deal with harassment. The coach will talk to her student-athletes about being cautious to keep everybody safe and protect Franklin’s privacy.

She moved in Sunday, after flying from New York where she appeared at Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the U.S. Open on Saturday, put on a Cal swim cap for the first time this week and will have her first class Friday. She said goodbye to her mother Tuesday, and, yes, she shed tears.

“We got our first syllabus, and it was saying how our tests are 25 percent of our grade, so that kind of freaks me out a little bit,” she said. “But hopefully I’ll get the hang of it.”

Franklin told an interesting story of how she decided Cal was the college for her on her official visit.

“I remember walking in to the Claremont Hotel with my parents that first night,” she said. “I walked into the hotel, and I looked at them and I was like, ‘Is it bad that I haven’t even been on campus and I know I’m going here?’ I was just there, and I just knew. I just felt. It was just in my heart the whole time. The whole trip nothing felt forced. It all felt so natural.”

One reporter mentioned that another newcomer, Cal football coach Sonny Dykes, was walking down a street in Berkeley and saw a man riding a bike without any clothes on. Those are the kinds of, um, interesting aspects of Cal life she’ll get used to. Franklin let out a laugh.

“That’s one of my favorite things about Berkeley — it’s probably the most unique environment that I’ve ever been in,” she said. “You sort of get used to seeing the fun quirky people on the sidewalk, and everyone’s so friendly wherever you go, which I also love. It’s just fun getting accustomed to it, and it’s exciting living in a new place. It’s very different from Colorado, from Centennial.”

Franklin and McKeever joked about Franklin’s image. Has she ever had a bad hair day? It’s a bit of a reminder of when Tim Tebow came to the University of Florida with similar fanfare.

“I want to see her bad hair day,” McKeever said. “I haven’t seen it yet. My life as a 51-year-old tells me there are days you can’t be this happy, can’t be this put together.”

“I think some of her teammates are going to see it’s not fun to be Missy Franklin,” McKeever added, according to the AP.

Franklin became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships earlier this month. She repeated Wednesday that she plans to compete for the Cal swim team for two years and turn pro before the 2016 Olympics but still finish her degree.

Here’s what’s scary: she said there’s room for improvement.

“That’s why I’m here, and I know Teri’s going to help me so much with that, and the team’s going to help me so much with that,” Franklin said. “I’m ready for new training. It’s sort of a change of pace that I think’s going to work really well for all of us.”

Finally, the San Jose Mercury News reported a great anecdote of Franklin informing McKeever of her college decision during the Big Game between Cal and Stanford last year.

Sitting in the stands McKeever saw she had a voice message from the recruit. McKeever told her husband she couldn’t deal with it because of nerves over recruiting the best swimmer in a generation.

A little later a Cal assistant texted McKeever that Franklin needed to talk to her right away.

McKeever found a spot in the stadium at halftime to return the call.

“This is so hard,” Franklin told McKeever. “I appreciate all you’ve done. I’ve got to go with my heart.”

McKeever recalled thinking some phrases unsuitable for print.

Then Franklin let it out: she had chosen Cal.

“Did I get you?” Franklin teased.

She did.

The Cal swim season starts Sept. 21 and wraps up with the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis March. The roster also includes Olympic champion Rachel Bootsma and Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz.

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USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter at pre-Games competition.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun was correct to reference the Olympic Charter, which states that “no kind of demonstration … is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which got them kicked out of the Games.

The USOC has since honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

Olympic hopefuls were peppered with questions about possible protests at the media summit.

“One of the proudest parts of being an American is the ability to have freedom of speech,” four-time Olympian Julia Mancuso said. “I really look up to athletes who take a stand for what they believe in. I really believe as athletes that compete for Team USA, when it comes to the Olympics, I like to think it’s a special event. Not like the NFL or pro sports teams that compete every weekend. For us, it’s every four years. I’m proud for athletes that stand up for what they believe in if they really want to have a message to get out. But I like to think of us all as patriotic.”

Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic bobsled medalist, is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who served in Kuwait and spent summers in the 1980s playing at Atlanta Falcons training camps.

She said any decisions on demonstrations or whether she attends a post-Olympics Team USA White House visit come secondary to her pursuit of making the Olympic team this winter.

“I can’t afford to focus on what I would do in that situation or how I would react,” Meyers Taylor said, adding that anything would be a “game-time decision.” “Maybe the social climate changes a little bit [before the Olympics]. … There’s a lot to consider.”

Aja Evans, a 2014 Olympic bobsled bronze medalist, the sister of former NFL defensive tackle Fred Evans, did not say that she would follow the football players’ lead.

“I honor and commend anyone that does that,” Evans said. “My way of showing my stance is to continue to try to be a positive influence for my city, for my country. I’m representing Team USA the best way I can.”

NCAA hockey players Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, both prospective Olympians with the NHL not participating, said they didn’t envision taking a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I’ve always stood for the national anthem,” Greenway said. “I always will.”

Olympic freestyle skiing medalists Maddie Bowman and Gus Kenworthy have said they plan to skip the traditional Team USA post-Olympic White House visit due to the current presidential administration. Figure skater Ashley Wagner, too, said she would not go if she had to choose today.

Kenworthy said he was shocked that President Donald Trump believed that athletes kneeling during the national anthem disrespected the flag.

“Those people [servicemen and women] are fighting for the freedom to express their beliefs,” Kenworthy said. “I feel proud to be from a country where we have the right to be able to kind of say what we feel, speak up for what we believe in. I feel that people kneeling before a game is actually quite admirable.”

Kenworthy didn’t rule out a personal demonstration at the Olympics, should he qualify again, but knows he could be stripped of a medal for doing so.

“I’m not saying that I would want to be dictated by fear, and if I was to get a medal and be too scared that it would be taken away from me,” he said. “I think that there’s a way to do things in a way that’s not going to sabotage yourself. You can stand up for something and not throw yourself under the bus.”

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U.S. Olympic men’s hockey player from 2006 has shot at PyeongChang

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PARK CITY, Utah — Though no active NHL players will be in PyeongChang, veteran NHL forward and free agent Brian Gionta could very well play for his second U.S. Olympic team in February.

A USA Hockey official confirmed Monday that the 2006 Olympian Gionta “has a very decent opportunity” to be part of the 2018 Olympic team.

That came in response to a Buffalo radio report that Gionta said it’s looking good for him to play for Team USA.

Gionta, 38, played 15 NHL seasons through last year but is currently unsigned as the NHL preseason continues. The U.S. Olympic team of 25 players named around Jan. 1 is likely to include very few, if any, players with Gionta’s experience.

Gionta was seen at the Rochester (N.Y.) AHL club’s practice Monday (but not taking part), according to media in that area. Gionta could play for an AHL club and be eligible for PyeongChang. USA Hockey wants prospective Olympians to be active in the AHL, NCAA or a European league.

Gionta’s agent has not responded to a request for comment on his Olympic prospects on Monday. Earlier in the summer, Gionta’s agent said that the skater was considering the Olympics.

Gionta led the 2006 U.S. Olympic team with four goals. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, their worst Olympic result over the last four Winter Games.

That came during Gionta’s most productive NHL season — 48 goals (sixth in the league) and 41 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Another Olympian — Ryan Malone from 2010 — embarked on a comeback this preseason and could pursue the Olympics. He has been in camp with the Minnesota Wild. If he doesn’t make the Wild, Malone could play on an AHL contract and be eligible for the Olympics.

USA Hockey confirmed that other players in the potential Olympic pool — at some 100 players at the moment — include Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a 30-year-old forward, played 394 NHL games between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-16 before joining the Swiss League.

Another is goalie Ryan Zapolski, who ranks third in the KHL in goals-against average this season.

John-Michael Liles, a 2006 Olympic defenseman and unsigned NHL veteran, is not interested in continuing his career in a non-NHL league to be considered for the Olympics, USA Hockey said.

U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said this summer that he was interested in some players who “have a rich history in the NHL and with USA Hockey that we think could potentially really help this roster.” Johannson wouldn’t name names then.

Johansson said a “long list” of potential players for the final 25-man roster must be submitted in September.

A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany. That roster is expected to be named in October.

The U.S. staff will also look at NCAA and AHL players ahead of naming the PyeongChang team.

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