Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin has no regrets choosing college over turning pro

1 Comment

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.”

Sports owner named leader of DC 2024 Olympic group

Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 06:  Yuliya Stepanova looks on after finishing last in the Womens 800m heats during day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics )
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Whistleblower Yulia Stepanova‘s hopes of competing in the Summer Olympics are all but over. Her fight to expose doping and corruption is not.

“It’s OK to lose a good fight,” Stepanova’s husband, Vitaly Stepanov, told The Associated Press on Monday.

They have appealed to the International Olympic Committee to reverse its decision, handed down Sunday, that denies Stepanova a chance at competing in the Rio Games, which begin Aug. 5. The decision, the Stepanovs claim, is based on incorrect information, including the IOC’s framing of Stepanova’s decision to become a whistleblower as a too-little-too-late desperation play made after the Russian team had cast her aside.

It’s a conclusion that both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track’s governing body, the IAAF, disagree with; both recommended Stepanova be allowed to compete in Rio.

But Stepanov said he received several signals that the IOC would not go along, beginning with a general lack of interest from the key decision makers. He said that during the push for Olympic eligibility, he spoke with two separate IOC officials for a total of 90 minutes.

“I think what the IOC didn’t do is spend enough time to understand how big the problem is in Russia and how much covering up is happening in Russian sports,” he said.

Stepanova was the 800-meter runner who was entrenched in the Russian doping system but later came forward with details about the cheating. That triggered investigations that led to the banning of the Russian track team from the Olympics. After receiving more information about Russian sports as a whole, the IOC opted against a ban of the entire Russian team.

Part of that decision included a ruling that any Russian with a previous doping ban would not be allowed in Rio. That includes Stepanova, though the legality of that ruling is in question: In 2011, the Court of Arbitration for Sport invalidated the IOC’s Rule 45, which called for Olympic bans for any athlete who’d served more than a six-month doping penalty. CAS said it amounted to double jeopardy.

It was one of several facets from the decision handed down Sunday that indicated the difficulty the IOC had in finding the right balance between, as president Thomas Bach called it, “individual justice and collective responsibility.” There also were political concerns; a Russian official addressed the IOC executive board and told members not to cave into geopolitical pressure.

While Russia largely welcomed the decision, it was roundly criticized by those in the anti-doping world. The move to ban Stepanova was widely viewed as the worst part of the judgment.

“The decision to refuse her entry in to the Games is incomprehensible and will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Stepanov said his wife got a bout of the stomach flu on Sunday – making a bad day that much worse.

She was training for the Olympics, knowing that if she made it, she would not compete for a medal, the way she had in the past.

“Her goal is to participate,” Stepanov said. “In my view, she deserved to be an Olympian a lot more than when she was a doped athlete.”

But the odds are against her.

Stepanov said there is no money to fund an appeal to CAS, which would have the last say on her possible ban.

“Sunday was a day to cry a little, to get disappointed,” Stepanov said. “But today’s Monday. We feel we’re trying to fight for the right thing, so we wake up and start fighting again.”

MORE: Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

Gabby Douglas ‘a very strong possibility’ for all-around, Martha Karolyi says

Gabby Douglas
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gabby Douglas has “a very strong possibility” to get a chance to defend her Olympic all-around title in Rio, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said Monday.

“Gabby’s preparation is in a very, very good direction, and I foresee that she can be in the all-around, but we’re not taking this decision as of now yet,” Karolyi said.

The U.S. will put no more than three women from its five-woman team in the all-around in qualifying. The top two Americans in qualifying will advance to the all-around final, the most prestigious individual competition in the sport.

“We have a tentative lineup, but that’s absolutely tentative and we would not reveal that lineup at the moment yet, because most likely there will be changes as time goes,” said Karolyi, adding that the lineup won’t be finalized until next week.

Simone Biles is considered a lock to be one of the all-arounders in qualifying. Who joins her is unclear.

Douglas and Aly Raisman were tapped at the 2015 World Championships, with Biles and Douglas topping Raisman in qualifying and then going one-two in the all-around final.

However, both Raisman and first-year senior Laurie Hernandez finished higher than Douglas in the all-around at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials in the last month.

Karolyi said that Douglas, who fell off the balance beam on both nights at the Olympic Trials, has improved at a pre-Olympic training camp. Karolyi also said that Douglas would not perform the difficult Amanar vault in Rio, which carries five tenths more in start value than the vault Douglas used at the Olympic Trials.

Biles and Raisman both perform the Amanar. If Biles, Douglas and Raisman do the all-around in qualifying, Douglas will go in with a start-value disadvantage in the chase to grab two available final spots.

In 2012, Douglas, Raisman and Jordyn Wieber all did the all-around in qualifying, with the 2011 World all-around champion Wieber finishing third out of the Americans (and fourth overall), missing the all-around final.

MORE: USA Gymnastics agrees to buy Karolyi Ranch