Missy Franklin takes measures to keep back spasms in the past

Missy Franklin
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NEW YORK — Missy Franklin continues to do physical therapy to prevent a recurrence of back spasms, which first struck her two days before the Pan Pacific Championships in August, the biggest international meet of the year.

“Trying to just, kind of change the way that I move,” Franklin said before a screening of “Touch the Wall” in lower Manhattan on Sunday night. The film documents Franklin and three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce‘s run up to the 2012 Olympics, where Franklin won five medals (four gold).

Has the back bothered her at all the last three months?

“It’s been a process,” Franklin answered. “I have made time to make sure I’m getting in and taking care of things.”

On Aug. 19, Franklin lined up for a backstroke start in training, like she had done hundreds of times, and felt such a knot in her back that she had to be helped out of the pool in Gold Coast, Australia.

She told her parents that day the pain felt like a “10 out of 10.” Franklin received acupuncture, massage and painkilling treatments. It subsided to a four out of 10 by her first race at the meet two days later, but was still constant.

She decided to compete. Franklin swam in 11 races over four days, including three relays.

“Honey, you really don’t have to do those relays,” her mother, D.A., told her.

“Yeah, I do, I’m going to do them,” Franklin responded.

Franklin couldn’t have reached her goals at the meet. She won a single bronze medal in four individual events, though her winning time in a consolation final of the 200m freestyle would have earned silver behind Katie Ledecky in the championship final.

“My career had been very much sunshine and rainbows every single meet,” Franklin said. “It was kind of only a matter of time before I had this moment where I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be. It’s been an unbelievable motivator. I’m very much ready to get back going upwards again.”

Franklin fortunately received an upgrade on her flight back from Australia to the U.S., giving her the option to lay down. She started her sophomore year at the University of California the day after landing in the States.

She also received an MRI and bone scan upon her return.

“It was nothing structural, nothing that was actually happening in my bones,” she said.

Franklin took on more classes this semester, 17 credits, after 13 in each of her semesters last year. The psychology major found a course called “drugs and the brain” particularly interesting, along with her first college math class (statistics), a language and society course (for her education minor) and Scandinavian literature.

Her workload in the pool changed, too. Franklin, known to volunteer for any event to help the team, swam up to 1,000-yard freestyle events last season. Now, Cal has a star freshman distance freestyler in Cierra Runge to handle that. Franklin is pleased to swim more backstrokes so far this year.

It’s her final season of college swimming. Franklin, whose biggest goal is to win an NCAA team title, will turn professional next spring but still train at Cal.

Sun Yang failed drug test, served three-month ban

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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