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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Ashley Wagner leads U.S. 1-2 at Skate America

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Ashley Wagner bolstered her international reputation again, winning Skate America on Saturday in her first top-level full competition since her world championships silver medal in April.

Wagner totaled 196.44 points over two programs in Hoffman Estates, Ill., holding off countrywoman Mariah Bell by 4.85 points. U.S. champion Gracie Gold was fifth. Full results are here.

“The short program was definitely one of my world-class programs,” Wagner said on NBC. “Long program, I left a little bit out on the table.”

Wagner, who led by 3.75 points after Friday’s short program, was flawed in her free skate, including singling the back end of a jump combination and under-rotating two more jumps.

Still it was enough to overtake Bell, who had the highest free skate score by 3.73 points but was sixth in the short program.

It marked the first U.S. women’s one-two in a Grand Prix event since 2012 Skate America (Wagner and Christina Gao).

“I’m starting to realize my own potential and believe in myself,” Bell, who shares a coach with Wagner, said on NBC. “I’m very excited for the future.”

Gold fell in both of her programs as she tries to bounce back from dropping from first to fourth at last season’s world championships. Gold had her lowest Grand Prix finish (excluding Grand Prix Final) since her debut at 2012 Skate Canada.

Wagner notched her fifth career Grand Prix series win (only Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen own more among U.S. women). Wagner joined Kwan as the only women to bag multiple Skate America and U.S. Championships titles.

The women Wagner must be compared with are Russian teens. Wagner ended a 10-year U.S. medal drought at worlds last year, but Russia still rules women’s skating.

None of the top Russians competed at Skate America. Wagner is slated to face 2015 World gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova at her next event, Cup of China, in four weeks.

The reigning world champion, Yevgenia Medvedeva, makes her Grand Prix season debut at Skate Canada next week. Medvedeva and Wagner could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, in December.

Earlier Saturday, Japan’s Shoma Uno topped the men’s short program with 89.15 points, landing one of his two quadruple jump attempts.

Uno, 18, was followed by the last two U.S. champions, Adam Rippon (87.32, no quads) and Jason Brown (85.75, fall on single quad attempt).

The men’s free skate is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC and NBC Sports app).

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Simone Schaller, oldest living Olympian, dies at 104

FILE - In this July 15, 1936, file photo, Simone Schaller, lower right, waves with members of the United States women's Olympic track and field team as they depart for Europe on the SS Manhattan. Schaller, an American hurdler who competed at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games and was believed to be the oldest living Olympian, died of natural causes Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016,  in the Arcadia, Calif., home she and her husband built when they married in the 1930s, her grandson Jeffrey Hardy said, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. She was 104. (AP Photo/File)
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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Simone Schaller, an American hurdler who competed at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games and was believed to be the oldest living Olympian, has died. She was 104.

Grandson Jeffrey Hardy said Saturday that Schaller died of natural causes Thursday in the home she and her husband built when they married in the 1930s.

Schaller tied Babe Didrikson Zaharias for the world record in the first round of the 80-meter hurdles at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Schaller finished fourth in the final behind Didrikson, who set another record. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Schaller had taken up hurdling only three months earlier.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Schaller made it to the semifinals.

She won the hurdles at the 1933 U.S. Championships. She was also an avid tennis player.

Schaller had three children, seven grandchildren, a dozen great-grandchildren and numerous great-great-grandchildren.

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