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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Inside Liang Chow’s gymnastics center (video)

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Liang Chow, former coach of 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas, hopes to return to the Games with a new gymnast in Rio.

Chow’s current group includes three recent members of U.S. junior and senior national teams — Norah FlatleyRachel Gowey and Victoria Nguyen (who is too young for Rio).

However, none of the 14 current U.S. senior national team members train under Chow. Ultimately, the five-woman U.S. Olympic team will be named in July.

In the above NBC News profile, Chow discusses immigrating to the U.S. from China in 1991 and opening his gym in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Plus, Flatley, Gowey and Nguyen discuss being coached by Chow.

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Whistleblower: Four Russian Olympic champs in Sochi were on steroids

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Four Russians who won gold medals at the Sochi Olympics were on steroids at the time, a whistleblower who previously provided evidence of Russian track and field doping said, according to CBSNews.com.

The report doesn’t name the athletes or their sports. Nor does it say any of the athletes failed drug tests.

A “60 Minutes” piece on Russian doping will air Sunday on CBS between 7 and 8 p.m. ET. An excerpt will air on CBS Evening News on Friday between 6:30 and 7 ET.

The whistleblower is Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official who, along with wife and former Russian 800m runner Yulia Stepanova, provided a 2014 German TV documentary undercover footage and evidence of Russian track and field doping.

Russia’s track and field federation was banned from competition in November. The suspension could last through the Rio Olympics.

The “60 Minutes” report cites Stepanov learning of Russian cheating at the Sochi Olympics from Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of a Moscow drug-testing lab that was stripped of its accreditation by the World Anti-Doping Agency in April.

In a November WADA independent commission report, Rodchenkov was alleged to have requested and accepted money to conceal positive drug tests. He immediately resigned.

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