Missy Franklin ends NCAA career with another individual title

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A teary Missy Franklin won the final individual race of her NCAA career, taking the 200-yard backstroke for her third individual title in as many nights at the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday.

She clocked 1 minute, 47.91 seconds, missing the American record by .07, and won by 1.44 seconds, helping California to capture its first women’s team title since 2012.

Franklin, a five-time 2012 Olympic medalist and California sophomore, is expected to turn professional after this weekend’s meet, making her ineligible for future NCAA competition.

“I’m so grateful for the experience that I’ve had,” Franklin, who had a Cal stick-on tattoo on her right cheek and her nails painted in the school colors gold and blue, said on ESPN3. “It’s been a very emotional couple of days, and I am just so proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished here. This is honestly the perfect way to end it. This is what I gave things up for, and the best part is it doesn’t even feel like I gave anything up, because I gained so much.”

Earlier in the meet, Franklin won the 200-yard individual medley on Thursday and the 200-yard freestyle in an American record time on Friday.

Franklin finished first, second and third in three individual swims as a freshman at the 2014 NCAA Championships.

She passed up an estimated $5 million in endorsements to keep amateur eligibility for two seasons to compete for the California Bears.

“The experience that I’ve had, even just the two years, is worth so much more than anything I could’ve got, giving some opportunities that I had after the [2012] Olympics,” Franklin said. “Just being able to be a normal college athlete and student, for me that’s completely priceless. I would make that decision 100 times over again.”

Franklin and Cal coach Teri McKeever joked that the team will most miss Franklin’s dance moves.

“The day after London, when I walked into her home to recruit her, I was standing in her kitchen and said, ‘What do you want in this experience?'” McKeever told media in Greensboro, sitting next to Franklin, the swimmer still wet from jumping in the pool while wearing a national championship hat and T-shirt. “We talked about how it needed to be two years, and that she had an opportunity leading into the [2016] Olympics because of what she did in London. In this scenario, she can have the best of both.

“She looks at life with rainbows and unicorns. Teri looks at life as the sky is falling a lot of times.”

Her next major meet is the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

NCAA competition is held in 25-yard pools. Olympic and World Championships meets are in 50-meter pools.

“They’re not goodbyes,” McKeever. “They’re transition moments.”

Missy Franklin’s dream to become most decorated female swimmer ever

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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