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Missy Franklin changes coach in cross-country move

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Missy Franklin has gone to the dogs, as in the Georgia Bulldogs.

The five-time Olympic gold medalist relocated to Athens, Ga., where she is pursuing a psychology degree and mounting a comeback in the pool.

Starting the new year with a cross-country move from Northern California, where she was attending the University of California at Berkeley, was a huge decision for the 22-year-old from Colorado.

Although happy training under Cal men’s coach Dave Durden, Franklin longed for the support her extended family in Georgia could provide and the chance to be around a women’s and men’s team run by one coach.

Finally, she decided, it was time to do what was best for her.

“I really struggled with that for a while because I looked at it from a selfish perspective,” she told The Associated Press by phone on Thursday. “It really isn’t a selfish decision. I started thinking about the road I have ahead of me. I started looking at options, which is really big for me.”

That road includes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Another chance on her sport’s biggest stage would be redemptive for Franklin.

She had a puzzling clunker of a showing at the Rio Games after barely making the U.S. team, a memory she’s eager to replace.

Franklin washed out in her individual events and earned gold for a morning preliminary swim on a relay.

It was a stunning result for the bubbly teenager who won four golds and a bronze swimming in seven events in London.

A couple months before Rio, Franklin was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She kept it all to herself, though, and publicly smiled through the difficulties she endured at the Games.

Even while mired in her woes, Franklin noticed a change in Michael Phelps. Her teammate was visibly different from the previous four years, smiling and happy and enjoying the sport.

She knew she wanted that for herself again.

Last year, Franklin underwent a pair of shoulder surgeries that kept her out of the pool. She missed the U.S. nationals and world championships in Hungary, leaving her plenty of time to reconsider her priorities and focus.

When she was considering colleges after her breakout four golds performance at the 2012 London Olympics, Georgia was runner-up to Cal.

Now, it’s her first choice.

The move has reunited Franklin with Bulldogs coach Jack Bauerle, who coached her when she made her first national team at age 13. He kept in touch even after Franklin settled on the West Coast.

“I’ve always adored him,” she said. “He cares about you.”

Franklin no longer competes in the collegiate ranks. Her fellow pros who train at Georgia include national team members Chase Kalisz, Melanie Margalis and Olivia Smoliga.

Besides extended family, Franklin is back in the same city as her Cal roommate who teaches in Atlanta. Her longtime boyfriend isn’t far away in Nashville.

“It already feels like home,” she said. “I felt so welcomed and so accepted.”

That’s important to Franklin, a self-described people pleaser who was always worried about others’ opinions and happiness, sometimes at her own expense.

“That was some hard lessons I had to learn at 16, 17. It’s impossible to please everyone and make everyone happy all the time,” she said. “To be able to sit here and shrug off those opinions that don’t matter took me a lot to learn.”

Franklin remembers walking into Durden’s office at Cal to tell him she was moving on, and she felt good about it.

“I can truly say I don’t know if I would still be swimming if it wasn’t for Dave Durden,” she said. “He’s one of those coaches that want the best for me.”

Franklin is wrapping up her first week of classes in Athens, still about 1 1/2 years from earning a degree after some of her credits from Cal didn’t transfer.

She’s going full-on in the pool, too, working with Bauerle on building up her stamina and strength in pursuit of regaining her speed.

She’s hitting the weight room and feeling reassured that her shoulders are healed, although she sees a physical therapist a few times a week for maintenance.

She may swim some Pro Series meets in the coming months. Her main target is U.S. nationals in July in Southern California.

“I’m kind of coming back from the bottom,” she said. “I could feel pressure because people are expecting a comeback, but I don’t care. I don’t really care what kind of pressure people are putting on me because I can’t control that.”

Instead, Franklin is focused on why she wants to swim again.

“I want to get back to that 17-year-old who truly loved the sport,” she said. “It’s less about the hardware I bring back and more about getting back there and showing people the Missy that is so happy.”

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Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics