Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky wins 2 Pan Pacs titles; Missy Franklin places 3rd

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Katie Ledecky won two events in a 50-minute span, while Missy Franklin was third in the top final of the 100m backstroke to open the Pan Pacific Championships on Thursday night.

Ledecky, 17, captured the 200m freestyle in 1 minute, 55.74 seconds in Gold Coast, Australia. She came back less than an hour later and nearly broke her world record in the 800m free, prevailing in 8:11.35. Her world record, set June 22, is 8:11.00.

“It was my first big international double,” Ledecky told reporters in Gold Coast. “I wanted to see how I could handle it. I’m really happy with how I handled it.”

Franklin, who was questionable to swim Thursday due to a back injury, took bronze behind Australians Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking in the 100m back. Franklin, 19, also won the 200m free consolation final in a time that would have placed second to Ledecky.

Franklin won both the 100m back and 200m free at the 2013 World Championships, where she bagged six gold medals.

Franklin said she had to remind herself to be proud of her swims given the circumstances of “intense” pain that made her “terrified” and kept her from putting any pressure on her back on Tuesday.

“Honestly, it has nothing to do with my times, nothing to do my with places,” said Franklin, smiling and laughing throughout the interview. “Just kind of fighting back against life right now.”

The rising California sophomore said it was scary the first night with the back problems, since she had never had spasms before. She couldn’t walk unassisted until Wednesday, when she was on “a bunch of medication” and was able to “sort of wobble around.” She’s had acupuncture and ice massages.

Franklin said after Thursday’s races that she felt ready to swim again Friday, but that she would take the meet day by day.

“I think this is definitely something that’ll pass,” she said. “I think now that I’m aware of it, now that I know my lower back gets a little tight, it’s definitely something we can prevent and make sure it never gets this bad again.”

The Pan Pacific Championships is the biggest swim meet of the year for the U.S. and a qualifying meet for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia. NBC will have coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Ledecky and Franklin qualified for Worlds in both of their Thursday events, setting up a potential showdown in the 200m free in Kazan, Russia, next summer.

“I wanted to swim tonight because I knew there was a Worlds spot on the line,” Franklin said. “I miss being able to get up and race [Ledecky].”

Ryan Lochte took fifth in his first Pan Pacs event, the 200m freestyle, to qualify for Worlds. Australian Thomas Fraser-Holmes won in 1:45.98, nine tenths slower than his fastest time in the world this year.

Michael Phelps is scheduled to make his meet debut in the 100m freestyle preliminary heats Friday morning (8 p.m. ET on Thursday).

Olympic champion Matt Grevers was upset in the 100m back by Japanese Olympic bronze medalist Ryosuke Irie, 53.02 to 53.09. Grevers’ time from the preliminary heats Thursday morning would have won gold.

U.S. Olympian Cammile Adams scored the biggest international victory of her career, taking the 200m butterfly over Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi, who still has the fastest time in the world this year.

Connor Jaeger clipped two-time Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane of Canada by .18 in the 1500m free.

Results

Women’s 200m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 1:55.74
2. Bronte Barratt (AUS) 1:57.22
3. Shannon Vreeland (USA) 1:57.38

Men’s 200m Freestyle
1. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 1:45.98
2. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:46.08
3. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 1:46.36
4. Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:46.45
5. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:46.75

Women’s 100m Backstroke
1. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 58.84
2. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 59.78
3. Missy Franklin (USA) 1:00.30

Men’s 100m Backstroke
1. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 53.02
2. Matt Grevers (USA) 53.09
3. Ryan Murphy (USA) 53.27

Women’s 800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:11.35
2. Lauren Boyle (NZL) 8:18.87
3. Brittany MacLean (CAN) 8:20.02

Women’s 200m Butterfly
1. Cammile Adams (USA) 2:06.61
2. Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) 2:06.68
3. Katie McLaughlin (USA) 2:07.08

Men’s 200m Butterfly
1. Daiya Seto (JPN) 1:54.92
2. Leonardo de Deus (BRA) 1:55.28
3. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:55.42

Men’s 1500m Freestyle
1. Connor Jaeger (USA) 14:51.79
2. Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 14:51.97
3. Mack Horton (AUS) 14:52.78

Pan Pacs men’s preview | women’s preview

Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi lead U.S. Olympic marathon team

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Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi shared nothing in marathon running before the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, but the two men from vastly different backgrounds were together, alone, leading the race with five miles left.

Rupp, 29, pulled away to win in 2:11:12 on the streets of Los Angeles. The former Oregon Catholic high school prodigy became the first American to make an Olympic marathon team in his 26.2-mile debut since 1968.

Keflezighi, a 40-year-old born in war-torn Eritrea who moved to the U.S. in 1987, crossed the finish line 68 seconds later in second place. He will become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time in Rio in August.

Rupp and Keflezighi, the only U.S. men to make an Olympic podium in distances longer than 1500m since 1984, were so close to each other in their three-mile leading stretch that their Olympic silver medals could have clanked against each other had they been wearing them.

Keflezighi, in his 23rd marathon and in front of Rupp at the time, didn’t take kindly to the six-inches-taller marathon rookie breathing on him. He let Rupp know about it on the streets of LA.

“It’s not a track, the road is open,” Keflezighi recalled in a press conference, shortly before exchanging a laughter-inducing glance with Rupp, who fittingly walked in to sit on a stool to Keflezighi’s immediate right mid-answer. “It was not a very friendly conversation.”

Now Rupp and Keflezighi are U.S. Olympic marathon teammates. Along with Jared Ward, who finished third Saturday, 1:47 behind Rupp, to make his first Olympics.

Full results are here.

In the women’s race, Amy CraggDesi Linden and Shalane Flanagan were the top three, all returning to the Olympics, with Flanagan collapsing at the finish line. Full recap here.

Rupp and Keflezighi broke away on their own around the 20th mile. Rupp then dropped Keflezighi in the 23rd mile. The reigning Olympic 10,000m silver medalist fist pumped crossing the finish line.

“It was a bit of a change running the marathon, but there’s no bigger honor than being able to represent your country at the Olympics,” Rupp then told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Dathan Ritzenhein, a three-time Olympian and a pre-race favorite with Keflezighi and Rupp, dropped out of the race around mile 20 in the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials of all time. The temperature at the men’s start at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees.

The Rio Olympic men’s marathon will be on Aug. 21, the final day of the Games. Keflezighi’s 2004 silver is the only U.S. men’s marathon medal since Frank Shorter took gold in 1972 and silver in 1976.

Rupp has said he prefers the 10,000m and might not race the marathon at the Olympics. If he doesn’t, the fourth-place trials finisher, Luke Puskedra, will move onto the team.

“I think [Rupp] is a 2:05 [marathon] guy, someday,” Rupp’s coach, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, told media after Saturday’s race. (The fastest American marathoner of all time, Ryan Hall, clocked a best of 2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon.)

Rupp could contest two races in Rio, the 10,000m (Aug. 13 final) and the marathon, or the 10,000m and the 5000m (Aug. 20). Rupp finished seventh in the 5000m in London.

“I would say that the 10k is still my primary focus,” said Rupp, who would have to make the Olympic track team at those trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10, in a USATF interview published Jan. 28. “Really, it just comes down to what I think I have a better chance in as a second event, whether that’s the 5k or the marathon.”

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Amy Cragg wins marathon trials; Shalane Flanagan collapses at finish

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No doubt Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan bonded as training partners en route to the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, escaping a black bear the clearest example.

They couldn’t have been closer after finishing first and third to make the Olympic team Saturday.

Flanagan collapsed in Cragg’s arms two strides after the finish line at the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials ever in Los Angeles. She was then helped into a wheelchair.

Cragg won the race in 2:28:20, redeeming after she finished fourth to miss the team by one spot at the 2012 trials. Flanagan came in third Saturday to make her fourth Olympic team, 25 seconds behind second-place Desi Linden and 58 seconds behind Cragg.

Full results are here.

Cragg, 32, waited for Flanagan at the finish line, holding an American flag, hugging Flanagan and then, suddenly, keeping the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist from falling onto the pavement.

Flanagan, the 2012 trials winner and a pre-race favorite, said there was a point in the 26.2 miles where she thought she was “done.”

Cragg talked her through it. They spent most of the final half of the race alone in the lead.

“Sweet baby Jesus, I’m so thankful for [Cragg],” Flanagan, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever, said minutes after finishing, with an ice pack over her shoulders, clutching a water bottle in her right hand and holding onto Cragg’s right shoulder with her left hand.

Cragg held up Flanagan during the interview and then helped her back into the wheelchair.

The temperature at the start of the men’s race at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees, hottest ever at a marathon trials (the first trials were in 1968). The women began 16 minutes later.

Cragg finished fourth at the 2012 marathon trials, then made that Olympic team in the 10,000m on the track and finished 11th in London in her Olympic debut. She moved from Providence, R.I., to Portland, Ore., in the fall to join Flanagan’s training group.

“Finishing fourth, looking back on it now, was so good for me,” Cragg told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It made me more determined than ever as an athlete. I’ve worked really hard the last four years, basically, to move up one spot.

“I just knew, training with Shalane, would give me all the confidence I need.”

Cragg dropped Flanagan in the final two miles. Before that, she said she asked Flanagan if she was OK. Flanagan replied, no, I’m not.

“She seemed like she was even struggling a little bit just to say that,” Cragg said. “Before the last water stop, I kind of looked at her, and she was turning bright red. I knew the heat was getting to her. I told her, I’m going to get you a water bottle, dump the whole thing on your head.”

Linden, arguably the pre-race co-favorite with Flanagan, repeated her 2012 trials finish of second place, surging in the final mile past Flanagan.

At the London Olympics, Linden pulled out 2.2 miles into the race with right hip pain, what would later be diagnosed as a femoral stress fracture.

“It’s been this Sisyphean task where I get to the top, and then the rock crumbles down,” Linden said Saturday. “I want to do it better this time.”

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher was fourth. She plans to compete at the track trials in July in Eugene, Ore., to go for Rio.

Goucher finished 65 seconds behind Flanagan, her former training partner, and said she missed workouts last week while sick. The 37-year-old said she may have picked up an illness from her 5-year-old son, Colt.

“I kept asking myself if I was doing all that I could, and I was,” Goucher told media, in tears. “They were just better. … I didn’t fight this hard to just fold right now, so yeah, I’ll be trying to make the 10k team [at track trials in July].”

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