Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin has no regrets choosing college over turning pro

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Four-time 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin is wrapping up her freshman season at the University of California, which has been both a challenging and scrapbook-filling experience.

The year affirmed to Franklin that she chose correctly in picking two years of college over becoming a professional swimmer right away, passing up enticing sums of endorsement dollars.

“I would make the same decision a hundred times over again,” Franklin told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.

Franklin looked ahead to next week’s NCAA Championships and the following week’s trip to the Laureus Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in recent interviews.

Her Cal Bears are favored to win their fourth national title in six years thanks to a star-studded roster that includes not only Franklin but also World Championships relay gold medalist Liz Pelton and Olympic relay gold medalist Rachel Bootsma.

Franklin jumped right into college swimming after becoming the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships in Barcelona last summer.

At Cal, she was named Pac-12 Championships Swimmer of the Meet and twice the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month. She set Pac-12 Championships records in the 100-yard freestyle, 200 free and 500 free. She also entered the 1,000 free this season, spicing up her usually slate of shorter events with less focus on the backstroke.

Cal’s headed for the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis from March 20-22. She has a binder ready to fill with mementos, just as she did for the Pac-12 Championships, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Franklin’s also adjusted to taking college classes. It hasn’t been easy, as any student-athlete can attest. The former (Aurora, Colo.) Regis Jesuit High School honor student celebrated receiving a “C” on a midterm last semester, according to the newspaper, but still maintained a 3.5 grade-point average. She hopes to earn a psychology degree.

Her plan at Cal remains the same, to swim for two seasons and turn professional in 2015, one year before the Rio Olympics. She even has an idea of what she wants to do after she retires from the sport — become a kindergarten teacher, according to SwimVortex.com.

Franklin was recently nominated for Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year along with German soccer player Nadine Angerer, Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, Slovenian skier Tina Maze and American tennis star Serena Williams. 

The winner will be announced in Kuala Lumpur on March 26. A swimmer has never won Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year. Michael Phelps has been nominated five times.

It remains to be seen if Phelps and Franklin will swim in the same meet again as they did at the 2012 Olympics. Phelps re-entered the drug-testing pool last year to be eligible for meets this spring and summer, but it’s unknown if or when he will dip his feet back in competition.

Franklin will surely transition from NCAA 25-yard pools to Grand Prix, national and international 50-meter pools, but she hasn’t set her schedule yet.

The first Grand Prix event is in Mesa, Ariz., from April 24-26. The U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., and the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia are in August.

Of course, it’s not all about swimming, which is how Franklin explained why college outweighed professional swimming.

“I was puzzled for a long time … it was a huge decision for me,” she said, according to SwimVortex.com. “I think that swimming in college and being a part of the Cal team had more to offer me at that point in my life than endorsements did. It’s not that I don’t want endorsements. One day, I would love to be a professional swimmer. For where I am right now, I think I can benefit more as a person and as an athlete swimming in college.

“So far, that’s been more than true.”

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Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Maame Biney, J.R. Celski join U.S. Olympic short track team

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Maame Biney will become the second African-born athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics and the first black woman on a speed skating team.

J.R. Celski, a three-time medalist, is going to a third Winter Games.

Biney, Celski and Aaron Tran qualified in short track at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, after the 500m on Saturday.

The team is now at five skaters — John-Henry Krueger and Lana Gehring qualified on the first night Friday.

Three more skaters will qualify Sunday after 1000m races — two men and one woman.

One of Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Jessica Kooreman, the top U.S. women at the last two Olympics, is guaranteed to miss the PyeongChang team.

Neither could keep up with the 17-year-old Biney, who moved to the D.C. area from Ghana with her father at age 5, on Saturday.

Biney swept the 500m finals, taking leads from the start and holding off more experienced women. She actually fell — while celebrating after crossing the finish line in the last race.

Afterward, NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce told Biney that eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno believes Biney doesn’t know how good she is.

“People have been telling me that forever, and I think right now I’m kind of seeing it, but I feel like I have a long ways to go, but thanks Apolo,” said Biney, who won a junior world championships bronze medal last season.

Celski did not win the men’s 500m, where he is the world-record holder. Krueger did, with Tran in second.

But the fact that Krueger finished in the top two in Friday’s 1500m and the 500m means that Celski gets on the team via his second-place finish in the 1500m.

Celski won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics and another relay silver in Sochi.

He took a full season off after Sochi — undergoing hip surgery — and overcame further knee and back injuries the last two years to return to the World Cup podium this season.

Celski is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal this season (a bronze) in 24 total races.

Celski won’t be able to race the 500m in PyeongChang if Thomas Hong makes the Olympic team on Sunday.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic short track skater gets 4-year doping ban

U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 6:45-8 p.m. 1500m rounds STREAM LINK
8:30-10 p.m. 1500m finals NBCSN | STREAM LINK
Saturday 12-1:45 p.m. 500m rounds STREAM LINK
2:30-4 p.m. 500m finals NBC | STREAM LINK
Sunday 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 1000m rounds STREAM LINK
1-3 p.m. 1000m finals NBC | STREAM LINK