Missy Franklin

Ledecky, Franklin advance to showdown final at Nationals

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IRVINE, Calif. — The most impressive U.S. swimmers in recent history are in the spotlight at the National Championships on Thursday. And we’re not talking about Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

On Phelps’ only day off at the five-day meet, the women’s 200m freestyle is the marquee event.

Female headliners Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin were the top two qualifiers from the morning heats into the final Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.

Ledecky won her heat in 1 minute, 55.75 seconds, the fourth-fastest time in the world this year. Franklin won hers directly after in 1:57.83. Olympic 200m free champion Allison Schmitt was not fast enough to make the eight-woman final.

In other events Thursday, Ryan Lochte advanced to the men’s 200m freestyle final with the third-fastest time.

Franklin and Lochte both advanced to the 200m backstroke finals, where they are the reigning World champions.

The 200m free is the meet-up event for Franklin, a 100m and 200m swimmer, and Ledecky, the world record holder in the 800m and 1500m.

They are the last two Female World Swimmers of the Year. When Franklin won a female record six gold medals at last year’s World Championships, Ledecky was named the meet’s best female swimmer for breaking two world records.

Ledecky was second to Franklin at last year’s U.S. Championships in the 200m free but did not swim the event at Worlds due to a hectic schedule.

The schedule opens up at the Olympics, though, which could create an interesting storyline going to Rio de Janeiro.

U.S. women haven’t gone one-two in an event at an Olympics or Worlds since 2000. In that same span, U.S. men have done so 25 times.

The U.S. Swimming Championships are a qualifying meet for the biggest international competition of the year, the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-24. There, the U.S. will face top swimmers from Australia, Japan, South Africa and other non-European nations.

Phelps seventh in 100m freestyle

Rory McIlroy says Olympic participation still ‘complicated,’ ‘difficult’

HAINAN ISLAND, CHINA - NOVEMBER 23:  Graeme McDowell (R) and Rory McIlroy of Ireland walk behind a flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup at the Mission Hills' Blackstone Course on November 23, 2011 in Hainan Island, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Rory McIlroy has said he was proven wrong about golf’s place in the Olympics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s keen on the 2020 Tokyo Games after skipping Rio.

The four-time major champion was asked Wednesday if he had any plans to play in the next Olympics and called it a “tough question.”

“The participation in the Olympics for me, it’s just a little more complicated I feel for me than some other people from where I’m from and the whole politics of the thing,” McIlroy said. “It’s a difficult subject for me.”

McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, which does not have a separate delegation at the Olympics. That led to a scrutinized decision for McIlroy, who had to choose in 2014 between representing Great Britain and Ireland for golf’s Olympic return in Rio.

McIlroy opted for Ireland, which he represented at the World Cup of Golf in 2009 and 2011.

“I don’t know whether it’s been because the World Cup has been in Brazil and I’ve been thinking a couple of years down the line,” McIlroy reportedly said in June 2014. “Thinking about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything, I think for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland in 2016.”

Golf’s place in the Olympics is not guaranteed beyond 2020, so Tokyo may be McIlroy’s last opportunity.

“Four years’ time is a long ways away, so we’ll see what happens,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “Right now, I’ll concentrate on the 16 majors that we have between now and then and try to get a few more of those and go from there.”

MORE: Tim Finchem eyes Olympic golf change in 2020

Rita Jeptoo stripped of Boston Marathon win, ban extended

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21:  Rita Jeptoo of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Kenyan Rita Jeptoo‘s doping ban has been doubled, to October 30, 2018, and her 2014 Boston and Chicago Marathon wins were stripped, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Wednesday.

Jeptoo repeated as Boston Marathon winner in 2014, one year after twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race, in a women’s course record 2:18:57.

Jeptoo, 35, tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition sample in Kenya on Sept. 25, 2014, three weeks before she won her second straight Chicago Marathon.

Athletics Kenya handed Jeptoo a backdated two-year suspension in January 2015, a punishment that was appealed by the IAAF, which sought a longer ban. Jeptoo also appealed the ban but later withdrew her motion.

“In coming to its decision, the Panel found to its comfortable satisfaction that the athlete used rEPO over a period of time to enhance performance,” the court said in a press release Wednesday. “The undisputed source of the rEPO found in her sample of 25 September 2014 was an injection given to her by a doctor. The athlete provided various differing accounts of the circumstances leading up to the injection and also regarding her relationship with that doctor.

“According to the applicable rules, the minimum period of ineligibility in this situation is a sanction of two years but can be increased to up to four years in the case of aggravating circumstances. The Panel is comfortably satisfied that there are aggravating circumstances in the case at hand as it was obvious to the Panel that the athlete used rEPO as part of a scheme or plan. The evidence for this includes inter alia her long relationship with the doctor in question, her multiple visits to see him, that her rEPO use was consistent with her competition calendar, that she hid the visits to the doctor in question from her manager and coach, as well as her deceptive and obstructive conduct throughout the proceedings. Weighing all the evidence, the Panel is comfortably satisfied that the circumstances warrant a period of ineligibility of four years.”

Ethiopians Buzunesh Deba and Mare Dibaba stand to be upgraded from second to first in the 2014 Boston and Chicago Marathons, respectively. Deba’s time of 2:19:59 stands to be the new Boston women’s course record.

Jeptoo also won the Boston Marathon in 2006.

VIDEO: Kenenisa Bekele misses marathon world record by 6 seconds