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Missy Franklin eyes new spark after swimming ‘broke up’ with her

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Missy Franklin had the worst experience of her life this summer. Honestly, she’s still processing the Rio Olympics.

“I kind of felt like swimming broke up with me,” Franklin said last week, “so now we’re trying to rehabilitate the relationship.”

The first step was deciding to return to the University of California, which Franklin announced Aug. 15 in Rio, four days after her final swim at her second Olympics.

Franklin had earned four gold medals at the London Games at age 17. She followed that up with one medal in Brazil (gold as a prelim swimmer on a relay), the nadir of a descent since she took six golds at the 2013 World Championships.

“It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, which, at 17, I thought it was,” said Franklin, whose first major setbacks were serious back spasms in August 2014.

Franklin spent her freshman and sophomore years competing for the Cal Bears before turning professional in spring 2015 and moving back into her parents’ basement in Colorado.

She has attributed her recent problems in the pool to a lack of balance out of it. The solution? Returning to a team environment at Cal (though she’s ineligible to compete for the Bears), to her college friends, to schoolwork.

It was all so familiar, except Franklin chose a different coach. Back at Berkeley in September, Franklin began training under Cal men’s coach Dave Durden rather than her previous women’s team coach, Teri McKeever.

Both Durden and McKeever have trained pro swimmers in addition to the college teams.

So why Durden?

“You learn so much just by observing on a pool deck how a coach interacts with their athletes, just the kind of coach they are, the kind of teacher they are,” Franklin said. “I always just loved the way Dave interacted with his athletes. … I’ve never heard a bad word about him. He’s obviously an incredible coach, that speaks for itself, especially with the results from this summer.”

Five of Durden’s men made the U.S. Olympic team for Rio, and three won individual medals. Most notably, Ryan Murphy swept the backstrokes, just as Franklin had done at the 2012 London Games.

This summer, Franklin failed to make the U.S. team in the 100m back and failed to make the Olympic final in the 200m back.

“Knowing that she was coming back to Cal, that we have a good professional group of athletes that look at swimming a little bit different [than college swimmers] … it was just a really good fit,” Durden said.

Natalie Coughlin, the predecessor to Franklin as Olympic 100m back champion, made the switch from McKeever to Durden after the 2012 Olympics and found benefits in training with men.

Coughlin, 34, has “popped in and out” of training since missing the Rio Olympic team, Durden said. Franklin has traveled some while taking online classes. She’ll enroll on campus in the spring.

When Franklin returns to competition, some time in 2017, it will be after the longest break between meets of her career. For now, she’s finding peace in training.

“I’ve never enjoyed going to practice so much,” said Franklin, whose book about her upbringing and swimming, “Relentless Spirit,” comes out Dec. 6. “It’s almost therapeutic in a way. Swimming is like my counselor at the same time. It’s a time where I can go and think about what’s going on in the world, think about my classes, about midterms coming up. Or it’s a time where I can just go and think about absolutely nothing at all. I don’t know what I would do without that time every single day. I also do it to inspire others. I truly feel like God has given me a gift for this sport, and it’s what I’m meant to be doing.”

She still thinks about her homecoming from Rio, seeing a lawn full of messages from neighborhood kids scribbled on paper hearts. Notes from one struggling young swimmer stood out in particular.

“She told herself to keep her head high and keep pushing forward, because that’s what she watched me do at the Olympics,” Franklin said. “Stuff like that makes it worth it.”

Franklin has always tried to make the 100m and 200m frees and the 100m and 200m backs her program at major international meets. Could that change?

“We haven’t even gotten there,” Durden said. “Right now it’s just doing the day-to-day.”

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Tyson Gay keeps sprinting in memory of 15-year-old daughter

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — She ran the 100m and 200m — just like dad. She was so fast and would’ve been a college standout. This he has no doubt.

That’s why Tyson Gay nearly walked away from racing. It was too painful with his daughter gone. So painful that when he trains he feels the stress in his back and can’t shake it off.

Only, she wouldn’t want him to quit. So he keeps sprinting in the memory of his 15-year-old daughter, Trinity , who was shot and killed in October outside a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It’s crushing and it never goes away. But you try to live with it,” said Gay , who competes in the first round of the 100m on Thursday night at the USATF Outdoor Championships. “You try to think about the good times.”

Like how she used to visit him in Florida for spring break or Thanksgiving. Or how they had the same teacher in high school and the teacher once playfully told Trinity how much better of a student she was than her father. Or how when he couldn’t spell a word, he would turn and ask her.

Out of habit, he still does that.

“I think about my daughter every day,” Gay said as he sat in a hotel lobby after a training session. “Every day.”

He didn’t hear the phone ring in the early morning hours on Oct. 16. His sister came downstairs and woke him up. Trinity was shot outside a Lexington restaurant after witnesses told police that gunfire was exchanged between two vehicles. She was hit by a stray round. There have been four charged in connection with her death.

“You’re upset you couldn’t be there to stop it,” Tyson Gay said. “It was just a group of honor students, going out to have a good time. And something like that happens? Crazy.

“I cried on the plane the whole way home. I was numb. I probably never cried that hard in my life.”

The tears keep flowing .

“The funeral, the wake, the burial, everything was unreal,” Gay said. “It’s been eight months and it still seems unreal. … I don’t think you ever have peace. I’ve learned to think about the good times, try to block that image of her death out of my mind.”

For the next month, it was hard for him to do much of anything, let alone return to track. After all, running was their thing.

Trinity was a sprinter at Lafayette High in Lexington and finished fourth in the 100m and fifth in the 200m at the state Class 3A high school track meet in May 2016. She also ran on a 4x200m relay team that finished fourth.

She never thought of herself as the daughter of Tyson Gay. She was Trinity Gay.

“I was so proud of her with that,” Gay said. “She was just a happy person. She was happy, loving and wanted to be herself. I never felt like she was in my shadow.”

He returned to training in late November more to “clear my mind and get out of the house,” he said. “You’re looking for closure every day and it doesn’t come. It’s just been tough in that sense.”

At 34, he’s not sure how many years he has left in the sprint game. This season for sure and then he will see how he feels.

Gay is the American record holder in the 100m (9.69 seconds) and he competed in the last three Summer Olympics. He was part of a team that won a silver medal in the 4x100m relay at the 2012 London Games, though that medal was ultimately stripped after Gay tested positive for steroids in 2013.

“I’ve been through every major upset and every major stresser that life can give you,” Gay said. “It’s very hard emotionally. It would’ve been easy for me to quit (track). I’m still fighting.”

She would’ve wanted him to keep running. She had a front row seat at some of his biggest meets.

“Track is something she loved. It’s something I loved,” Gay said. “I had a college coach tell me a year ago, ‘Hey man, we need your daughter to run for us.’ I told her about it and she got tickled. She thought it was so cool. That made me so proud.”

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USA Swimming National Championships broadcast schedule

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NBC Sports will air daily coverage of the USA Swimming National Championships broadcast schedule in Indianapolis next week, part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series.

Olympic gold medalists Katie LedeckyRyan MurphySimone Manuel and Lilly King are expected to headline the field at nationals, where the top two per individual event qualify for worlds in Budapest in July.

NBCSN will air live finals coverage on the first two nights Tuesday and Wednesday, with Universal HD airing the last three nights of finals. Finals start at 6 ET each night.

NBC will also air coverage Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will stream all coverage on NBCSN and NBC, plus the USA Swimming webcast on Universal HD nights.

A USA Swimming webcast will live stream all prelim sessions that begin at 9 a.m. ET daily.

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Date Time (ET) Network
Tuesday 7-8 p.m. (LIVE) NBCSN, Streaming
Wednesday 7-8 p.m. (LIVE) NBCSN, Streaming
Thursday 6-8 p.m. (LIVE) Universal HD
Friday 6-8 p.m. (LIVE) Universal HD
Saturday 1-3 p.m. NBC, Streaming
Saturday 6-8 p.m. (LIVE) Universal HD
Sunday 1-3 p.m. NBC, Streaming