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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Pyeongchang Olympic organizers optimistic with 500 days to go

Security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. With 500 days until the Olympic cauldron is ignited in Pyeongchang, organizers of the 2018 Winter Games say 90 percent of construction on new venues is complete and the focus of preparations is on test events. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marking the 500-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, organizers said Tuesday that 90 percent of construction of new venues is complete and the focus is now on preparing for test events.

Pyeongchang’s organizing committee said construction is on schedule for a series of sports competitions scheduled from November to April that will serve as rehearsals for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9, 2018.

The six new competition venues for the games are now 88 percent complete and a new high-speed rail line – designed to link the country’s main gateway of Incheon airport with Pyeongchang in less than two hours – will be completed next June and start operations in January 2018, organizers said.

The preparations are undergoing a transition from the “planning phase to operational readiness,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

“Asia has immeasurable potential to become the frontier of winter sports. Pyeongchang has been dedicated to promote winter sports and attract investments throughout Asia,” the committee said.

Noting that the 2018 Games will be the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia, the committee said Pyeongchang will be an “opportunity to establish even closer links among the next host countries and build bridges through sports.”

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, while Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Games.

Pyeongchang organizers have overcome delays, local conflicts over venue constructions and difficulties attracting domestic sponsorships in past years. Optimism over preparations has increased after the successful hosting of the first round of test events at Alpine venues earlier this year.

Despite a slow start, organizers say more than 80 percent of the domestic sponsorship target of $850 million has been met and that they expect to reach 90 percent of the target by the end of the year.

A program of cultural events featuring pop singers and local sports stars was held in Seoul on Tuesday evening to mark the start of the countdown.

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 06:  Chloe Kim celebrates a first place finish in the ladies' FIS Snowboard World Cup at the 2016 U.S Snowboarding Park City Grand Prix on February 6, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Today marks 500 days until the Opening Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics.

Below are five U.S. athletes to get to know before February 9, 2018:

Ryan Bailey (Bobsled): Bailey, who finished fifth as a sprinter in the London Olympic 100m, is attempting to compete at the 2018 Olympics as a bobsledder. On Sept. 21, just weeks into his bobsled career, he won the men’s push athlete national title. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

MORE: Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson (Speed Skating): Bowe and Richardson have been trading world records in recent years. Last November, Bowe broke her own women’s 1000m world record, only to have Richardson lower it just three minutes later. A week later, Bowe broke the world record in the event once again.

MORE: Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Figure Skating): The future is uncertain for Davis and White, who became the first U.S. couple to win an Olympic ice dance title in Sochi. They have not competed since the 2014 Olympics, but they have also not announced their retirement.

MORE: Where Meryl Davis, Charlie White stand on possible comeback

Chloe Kim (Snowboarding): Kim mathematically qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in halfpipe, but at 13, she was not old enough to be eligible to compete in Sochi. A U.S. woman has won gold in the event at three of the past four Olympics, but Kaitlyn Farrington, who won halfpipe gold in Sochi, retired after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

MORE: Kaitlyn Farrington retires from snowboarding

Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine Skiing): Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at the 2014 Games, when she was 18. Four years later, she is hoping to become the first Alpine skier — man or woman — to repeat as slalom gold medalist. She also could become the first U.S. women’s Alpine skier to win gold medals in multiple Olympics.