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

Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

Chloe Dygert
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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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