Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin make 100m freestyle finals at Pan Pacs

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Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin qualified for the 100m freestyle finals on the second day of the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.

Phelps, in his first international race since the London Olympics, beat World 100m free silver medalist Jimmy Feigen in the preliminary heats to secure one of two American berths in the A final Friday. Phelps clocked 48.45 seconds in an event he doesn’t normally swim at major international meets.

“My stroke actually felt easier than it normally had,” Phelps told reporters in Gold Coast. “The first 50 felt really good.”

Phelps was third fastest overall in the prelims, behind U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.05) and Australian World champion James Magnussen (48.25).

Franklin was the top American and fourth overall in the women’s 100m free heats, three days after she was helped off the pool deck at practice with back spasms.

“Yesterday especially, I was swimming a lot more scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Franklin said. “I’m definitely feeling more confident that my back’s moving in the right direction.”

Franklin faces tougher competition than Phelps in her final.

That’s because Australian World champion Cate Campbell swam the fastest time in the world this year to win her heat in 52.62. Franklin posted 53.75, just ahead of Simone Manuel, the other American into the top final.

The finals session is at 5 a.m. ET on Friday.

Katie Ledecky, who won the 200m free and 800m free on the first day of the meet, was fifth in her 100m free heat in 55.25 seconds and did not advance to the finals. The 100m free is a little too short of a distance to be in her wheelhouse.

NBC will have Pan Pacs coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Pan Pacs are not only the biggest meet for U.S. and Australian swimmers this year, but times from Pan Pacs and the U.S. Championships will also determine the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

In other events, World bronze medalist Jessica Hardy and Olympian Breeja Larson were the second and third qualifiers behind Japan’s Kanako Watanabe into the top 100m breaststroke final.

American Kevin Cordes was fastest in men’s 100m breast prelims.

Japan’s Kosuke Hagino led the 400m individual medley qualifiers. Americans Chase Kalisz and Tyler Clary also made the top final.

Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel and Maya DiRado were the two fastest women in the 400m IM prelims.

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Simone Biles welcomed home with cheerleaders, band, police escort (video)

Simone Biles
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The celebration began the moment Simone Biles walked into Bush Airport in Houston on Wednesday.

Biles, after winning four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, arrived in her home state of Texas to the sounds of a band, sights of Houston Texans cheerleaders and much more.

Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Wednesday to be “Simone Biles Day” in Houston, handing the gymnast a paper proclamation.

“Hi guys, I’m Simone Biles, and I can’t thank everyone [enough] in all of Houston for coming out to see me today and to welcome me from Rio,” she said, laughing, on a podium at the airport. “I don’t know what else to say, I’m nervous, and I love you guys.”

Later, Biles was given a parade in her hometown of Spring, a Houston suburb, with a police escort.

Biles and the Final Five’s first stop on the way home from Rio was New York, where they went on a media tour earlier this week. They reached the top of the Empire State Building, visited Jimmy Fallon and saw “Hamilton.”

The Final Five will reunite for a USA Gymnastics tour of 36 cities, beginning Sept. 15.

MORE: Home videos of Simone Biles doing gymnastics

Gwen Jorgensen the latest Olympic triathlon star to move up to marathon

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When Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen lines up for her first 26.2-mile race at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, it will be hard to judge her performance.

Perhaps the best measure will be her time versus those of previous Olympic triathlon medalists in their marathon debuts.

Jorgensen is recognized as the greatest female runner among top-level female triathletes, perhaps of all time, with an ability to make up deficits of more than one minute on the 10km run after swimming 1,500 meters and biking 40 kilometers.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic triathlon gold medalist, made her marathon debut in 2014 in 2:42:53. Sprig, though, had more long-distance racing experience than Jorgensen, including a half marathon.

Jorgensen, 30 and a former University of Wisconsin distance runner and swimmer, has never tackled more than 10 miles in training, according to The New York Times.

“When you ask athletes what they want to do after they win gold or the Super Bowl, they say they want to go to the happiest place on earth,” Jorgensen said, according to the newspaper. “Running is my happiest place. It’s my Disneyland.”

Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes shared triathlon’s longest top-level international winning streak before Jorgensen strung together 13 wins in a row.

Fernandes, the 2008 Olympic triathlon silver medalist, clocked 2:31:25 in her first marathon, but it came in 2015, four years after her last elite international triathlon.

The 2015 New York City Marathon women’s winning time was 2:24:25 by Kenyan Mary Keitany. The top American, Laura Thweatt, ran 2:28:23.

This year’s American field may be stronger, with Olympic track distance runners Molly Huddle and Kim Conley making their marathon debuts.

Other Olympic triathlon medalists, including 2004 gold medalist Kate Allen and 2000 silver medalist Michellie Jones, have moved up to the Ironman — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon.

In 2014, Jorgensen said she didn’t see herself ever doing an Ironman.

MORE: What Jorgensen asked Ironman star Mirinda Carfrae