Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin on her dream relay, unusual autographs, ‘the worm’

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Five-time Olympic swimming medalist Missy Franklin took time last week to answer questions from OlympicTalk as she announced a new role as a Laureus Ambassador.

Here are excerpts from the Q&A:

OlympicTalk: You met Mark Spitz for the first time when you won the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year last March. What do you remember about what he told you?

Franklin: We were with Mark for the majority of the weekend, dinner events and leading up to the actual award ceremony, him presenting my award, which was literally a dream come true. It seems like yesterday, and it also feels like 10 years ago.

One of the things that really struck me was we were at a dinner, and I think he introduced me to someone as the greatest female swimmer in the world. I was like, Mark, you can’t say that! Just to have him introduce me to people like that. Here I am having Mark Spitz say that about me.

OlympicTalk: What’s your upcoming schedule?

Franklin: I have three weeks left in my semester. I have two finals and a couple of papers to write. The finals are in anthropology and molecular and cell biology.

OlympicTalk: When’s your next swim meet?

Franklin: Probably not [the Pro Swim Series at] Charlotte [May 14-17], because it’s so close to finals. I am planning on [the Pro Swim Series at] Santa Clara [Calif., June 18-21].

OlympicTalk: Who would win an 800m freestyle race — Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky?

Franklin: I don’t think you could even answer that. Those are two people who you could never count them out, ever. It doesn’t matter what race they’re in, what they’re doing. I honestly couldn’t say, but I think it would be pretty fun.

OlympicTalk: Have you ever thought about racing against men?

Franklin: Actually there was a lot of talk after NCAAs that I should race [Stanford’s] David Nolan while he does a 200 [individual medley] and I do 200 freestyle. I don’t know why that came up.

Editor’s Note: Nolan won the NCAA title in the 200-yard individual medley in 1:39.38, becoming the first swimmer to go sub-1:40 in that event. Franklin won the NCAA title in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:39.10, breaking her American record by 1.21 seconds.

OlympicTalk: Which swimmers have you asked for autographs?

Franklin: I think the only time I really ever asked for autographs was at [2008 Olympic] trials. A bunch of my friends that were there, they knew I would be on the pool deck, so I had a better chance of getting to [the famous swimmers] than other people. I was terrified. I was scared out of my mind to talk to these people. The two people I got them from were Megan Jendrick and Cullen Jones. They probably don’t remember this at all. They were both so sweet. It’s so funny looking back on that, this dinky 13-year-old totally star struck. Now I’m texting Megan and her husband all the time. They’re sending me pictures of their beautiful children. And Cullen and I are such great friends.

OlympicTalk: What’s the most unusual item you’ve autographed?

Franklin: A rock. I think it was at my local neighborhood school one day [in Colorado]. Ten to 15 kids came over and said, can we get your signature? I said, but do you guys have anything for me to sign? They went over to the side of the pool and grabbed rocks.

OlympicTalk: You famously did “the worm” at a school assembly in May 2012. When was the last time you did “the worm?”

Franklin: It has been a while. Like it has to be that prime moment to drop down and do it. I think I may have done it for a Pac-12 Network interview. They asked me if I had any special talents. I can do the worm. With all these wires, I plopped down and did the worm (video here).

OlympicTalk: Michael Phelps and other swimmers listen to music on the walk out to the pool deck for races. Why don’t you?

Franklin: I listen to music on the way to the pool and pre-warm-up, but in terms of walking out, I take so much energy from the environment I’m in and the crowd. Those are the kind of moments I want to stop and pause and take in. When I walk out, and I’m hearing them say my name, watching the crowd, that’s what gives me chills. That’s what energizes me. I know it’s different for other people, but I like to be super present and take in everything.

OlympicTalk: What would be your dream relay quartet?

Franklin: If I’m being totally honest, there’s so many greats, but I would say maybe two answers. A 200 freestyle relay with Allison Schmitt, Katie Ledecky and Jenny Thompson. I honestly think my dream relay was the 400m medley relay at the London Olympics, being on that relay with Dana [Vollmer] and Schmitty and Rebecca [Soni].

Michael Phelps to move to Arizona with coach Bob Bowman

U.S. men look to fill Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte void at worlds

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With Michael Phelps retired and Ryan Lochte suspended, the superstars at the world swimming championships clearly lie on the women’s side.

But the men’s events will include world-record chasers, a stinging rivalry and, perhaps, the emergence of Phelps and Lochte’s successor as leading U.S. man.

Caeleb Dressel came through in Rio under arguably the most pressure of any swimmer, starting off the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay team in his very first Olympic splash with a personal-best time.

Dressel, a 20-year-old who nearly quit swimming three years ago as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, has nine events to choose from at worlds in Budapest starting Sunday.

He qualified in four individual events — 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles — and is eligible for all five relays (two mixed-gender).

In the last 15 years, only two U.S. men have raced in four individual events at a single Olympics or world championships — Phelps and Lochte.

Dressel is in the medal mix in all of his individual events, ranking No. 1 in the world this year in the 100m fly, No. 3 in the 50m free, No. 4 in the 100m free and No. 5 in the 50m fly. He is also almost guaranteed medals in any relays that he enters given the unmatched U.S. depth.

Dressel has never been to a worlds and raced just one individual event in Rio. He’s the potential breakout star on a U.S. team, surrounded by more proven names.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Event Schedule

Ryan Murphy, who swam for the same Jacksonville, Fla., club team as Dressel, swept the backstrokes in Rio and broke the 100m back world record leading off the medley relay. That dominance has not quite carried over so far in 2017. Murphy ranks third in the world in the 100m and 200m backs this year.

Chase Kalisz, a longtime Phelps training partner in Baltimore, has followed up his Rio Olympic 400m individual medley silver medal well this year. He chopped two seconds off his personal best in the 200m IM and goes into Budapest ranked No. 1 in the world in the 400m IM by nearly a half-second.

The U.S. boasts more medal threats including Nathan Adrian (sprint freestyles), Townley Haas (200m free), Cody Miller and Kevin Cordes (breaststrokes), but nobody is a clear favorite.

The surest bets are world-record holders Adam Peaty and Ippei Watanabe in the breaststrokes and Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri in the 1500m free. Paltrinieri could challenge a five-year-old world record held by Sun Yang.

Speaking of Sun, the mercurial Chinese superstar is set to renew his rivalry with Australian Mack Horton. In Rio, Horton memorably called Sun “a drug cheat,” in reference to Sun’s three-month suspension in 2014 for using a banned stimulant.

Horton then went out and beat Sun in the 400m freestyle, dethroning the Olympic and world champion. Horton and Sun could face off in four individual events in Budapest.

Key men’s finals:

Sunday, July 23
400m freestyle — Sun has been two seconds faster than Horton this year
4x100m freestyle relay — Olympic silver medalist France won’t defend world title; U.S. favored

Monday, July 24
100m breaststroke — Peaty has the eight fastest times ever and fastest by .95 this year

Tuesday, July 25
200m freestyle — Haas the only man within .64 of Sun in 2017
100m backstroke — Rio silver medalist Xu Jiayu was .01 shy of Murphy’s WR in April

Wednesday, July 26
200m butterfly — Japan and Hungary lead the post-Phelps-era world; Chad le Clos ranks 8th in 2017
800m freestyle — Italian Gabriele Detti fastest in 2017 by six seconds, but slower than Sun’s winning times in 2011, 2013, 2015

Thursday, July 27
200m individual medley — Phelps, Lochte won the last 12 Olympic/world titles
100m freestyle — Reigning Olympic and world champions’ absences open door for Adrian, Dressel

Friday, July 28
200m backstroke — U.S. won 14 of the last 15 Olympic/world titles, including Murphy in Rio
200m breaststroke — Watanabe broke WR in January; surprise Olympic champ Dmitriy Balandin ranks No. 127 this year
4x200m freestyle relay — U.S., without Lochte, Phelps, looks to take world title back from Great Britain

Saturday, July 29
50m freestyle — Reigning Olympic and world champions’ absences open door for Adrian, Dressel
100m butterfly — Joseph Schooling eyes Phelps’ WR, but Dressel ranks No. 1 in 2017

Sunday, July 30
400m individual medley — Kalisz ranks No. 1 in 2017, but time is .94 slower than Kosuke Hagino in Rio
1500m freestyle — Sun holds WR of 14:31 but hasn’t broken 14:55 since 2014
4x100m medley relay — Great Britain will lean on Peaty to challenge U.S.

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MORE: Michael Phelps not itching to return like in 2013

Katie Ledecky eyes more history as women to star at swimming worlds

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The year after the Olympics isn’t always known for it, but there should be fireworks in the women’s events at the world swimming championships in Budapest next week.

Katie Ledecky could match Missy Franklin‘s record of six gold medals at a single worlds by swimming one more event than she did at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. Judging by Ledecky’s times at the U.S. Championships last month, the rising Stanford sophomore is in her usual dominant form.

Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, swimming in front of her home fans, could try to equal Ledecky with four individual golds in backstrokes and individual medleys.

Swede Sarah Sjostrom could do the same in the 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles, where world records are under threat.

Ledecky, Hosszu and Sjostrom are all bidding to become the first women to three-peat in an individual event at worlds.

Then there’s the return of the greatest rivalry in swimming. After their memorable Rio duel, King and Yulia Efimova rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year in all three breaststrokes.

Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and American Leah Smith have never won an individual world title, but they could be the busiest swimmers of all next week.

Belmonte could race 7,4000 total meters if she makes every event final. Smith could get up to 7,000 meters. Both would outdistance Ledecky and Hosszu in mileage.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Event Schedule

The women’s program could have been even more loaded if not for two notable absences. Australian Cate Campbell, the 100m freestyle world-record holder, is sitting out world champs.

Australia beat the U.S. in the 4x100m free relay at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, but without Campbell, the Americans are about even with the Aussies. Ledecky’s bid for six golds could hang on this race on the opening night.

Ledecky also greatly benefits from Sjostrom’s decision to skip the 200m freestyle. In Rio, Sjostrom was the closest swimmer to Ledecky in her individual events, coming .35 shy in the 200m free while outsplitting Ledecky in the final 50 meters.

Key women’s finals:

Sunday, July 23
400m freestyle — Ledecky hasn’t lost a 400m free since the 2012 Olympic Trials
4x100m freestyle relay — Showdown with Campbell-less Australia crucial for Ledecky’s six-gold bid

Monday, July 24
100m butterfly — Sjostrom’s only competition is her world record of 55.48
200m individual medley — Nobody has been within a second of Hosszu this year

Tuesday, July 25
100m backstroke — Kylie Masse was .09 off the longest-standing women’s swimming world record at Canadian Champs
1500m freestyle — Ledecky is 25 seconds faster than anyone else this year
100m breaststroke — Efimova is .13 faster than King this year

Wednesday, July 26
200m freestyle — Ledecky’s toughest individual event made easier by Sjostrom’s absence

Thursday, July 27
200m butterfly — Olympic champ Belmonte eyes first world title; Nos. 2, 3, 4 from Rio absent
4x200m freestyle relay — China is strong, but Ledecky is the U.S.’ ace in the hole

Friday, July 28
100m freestyle — Heavy favorite Sjostrom .02 off the world record in June
200m breaststroke — Efimova is two seconds faster than second-ranked King this year

Saturday, July 29
200m backstroke — Kathleen Baker can inherit throne from retired Maya DiRado 
800m freestyle — Likely Ledecky’s sixth and final event, could match Franklin’s gold record

Sunday, July 30
50m freestyle — No. of sub-24-second times this year — Sjostrom: 6; Rest of World: 0
400m individual medley — Hosszu, after breaking WR by two seconds in Rio, slower this year
4x100m medley relay — U.S. should gap Australia, China on breaststroke leg

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MORE: Michael Phelps not itching to return like in 2013

*Correction: The integrity of a Lilly King quote attributed to Agence France-Presse in earlier version of this story has been called into question and was removed.