Missy Franklin
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Missy Franklin embraces ‘disappointments’ going into Olympic season

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In August, Michael Phelps swam his fastest times in six years. Ryan Lochte captured a fourth straight World Championship. Katie Ledecky (re-)broke world records.

Meanwhile, Missy Franklin has entered six meets since mid-June and won zero individual events.

She dealt with the transition from a decorated NCAA career to becoming a professional swimmer, a move and coaching change and continued to take preventative care of her back.

Franklin, who won four golds at the 2012 Olympics and a record six at the 2013 Worlds, began experiencing adversity at the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, when she needed help walking due to back spasms two days before the meet in Australia.

The pain then was a “10 out of 10,” she said, and she left the meet with one hard-fought bronze medal from four individual races.

Franklin persisted and starred in college last fall and winter, winning three individual NCAA Championships for California in March.

Then she turned professional immediately after that sophomore season, moved back into her parents’ Colorado home (the basement, specifically) after the school year and returned to her old coach, Todd Schmitz. She had to quickly transition to international swimming (in 50-meter pools versus 25-yard NCAA pools) after an exhausting NCAA campaign.

Then Franklin went winless in five events at a tune-up meet in Santa Clara, Calif., in June and finished second, third, fifth and seventh in four events at the World Championships in August. She wanted more.

“You find out how tough you are,” Franklin told media Wednesday in Minneapolis, site of a Pro Swim Series meet Thursday through Saturday (finals at 7 p.m. ET on USASwimming.org). “You find out how hard it is to get up and go to practice and keep working at it and go to a meet and still be disappointed despite knowing that you put in 110 percent effort every single day. That’s probably one of the worst feelings ever, is knowing you did everything you could, and that it wasn’t where you wanted it to be.”

That’s left Franklin with two options.

“You take it, and you say, OK, well then that’s it, like I guess, if I’m going to try this hard and not getting anything out of it, then why try,” she said. “Or you can say, I’m not going to settle for that. Like I’m going to keep trying my best, and I’m going to try even harder than I thought I was doing before, and I’m going to see where that gets me. And so it’s just an incredible growth experience all around.”

It’s the beginning of the Olympic season, and the focus is on peaking first for the Olympic trials in June and July and then the Rio Games in August.

“The most important thing for me right now is not to gauge where I’m at based on my times,” Franklin said. “Most importantly, if what I’m doing in practice is translating into a race.”

Franklin kept busy after Worlds, racing in FINA World Cups in Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. She racked up podium finishes but never the top step.

Australian Emily Seebohm is now queen of the backstrokes. Franklin’s freestyle events are loaded with talent from Australia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden and Ledecky.

“This weekend will probably tell me a lot,” Franklin said. “It was hard to kind of gauge where I was at with World Cups because you take two weeks off, and then you train for three weeks, and then you race, how can you really gauge that? That was really more about racing experience.”

Franklin laughed when asked to compare herself in 2012 — a 17-year-old baby who loved Justin Bieber, she said — to now — a 20-year-old woman.

“I think back in London to I was kind of at the point where my career just kept going up and up and up and up,” she said. “And now, I’m at a stage in my career where I had those ups and downs. I’ve had those disappointments. And I didn’t have that back then. And so, while that’s been really hard to go through, you can’t have a career without that. You can’t have a sports career. You can’t hope to develop yourself as a person without those kinds of disappointments as an athlete. As hard as it is working through that, I think that’s been really, really good for me.”

MORE: Michael Phelps revealed comeback to family with 3 a.m. voicemail

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement