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.”

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Danielle Williams cemented as world No. 1 hurdler in Birmingham

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The 100m hurdles has been one of the U.S.’ deepest events the last several years, but Jamaican Danielle Williams looks like the favorite at the world championships in early October.

Williams, who owns the world’s fastest time this year, easily beat world-record holder Kendra Harrison and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal at a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Sunday.

Williams crossed in 12.46 seconds despite hitting her knee on one hurdle, but still two tenths clear of Harrison, whose world record is 12.20. It marked Harrison’s first loss in nine meets this year and the first time a non-American has ever beaten her at a Diamond League stop.

It looked like Williams wouldn’t make it to worlds in Doha when she false started out of the Jamaican Championships. But the final was soon after strangely canceled, and Jamaican media reported last week that Williams, the 2015 World champion who failed to make the Rio Olympics, is eligible to be chosen next month by the federation.

The U.S. had at least the two fastest women in the world each of the previous six years. Then Williams re-emerged with a Jamaican record 12.32 on July 20.

The meet airs Monday on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 4 p.m. ET and NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET. The Diamond League moves to Paris on Saturday.

In other events Sunday, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo overtook Brit Dina Asher-Smith and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 200m in 22.24. Miller-Uibo extended her unbeaten streak to two years across all distances.

It appears Miller-Uibo will not be racing the 200m at worlds, given it overlaps with the 400m. She ranks third in the world this year at the shorter distance, trailing Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who clocked 22.00 on June 23 but was not in Sunday’s field. Miller-Uibo has ranked No. 1 at 400m four straight years.

Yohan Blake won the 100m in 10.07 seconds, holding off Brit Adam Gemili, who had the same time with a 2 meter/second tailwind. Blake, the second-fastest man in history with a personal best of 9.69, hasn’t been the same since suffering a series of leg injuries starting in 2013.

Sunday’s field lacked the world championships favorites — Americans Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin, who clocked 9.81 and 9.87 on June 30.

Surprise U.S. champion Teahna Daniels placed third in her Diamond League 100m debut, clocking 11.24 seconds. The field lacked world championships favorites Thompson and Fraser-Pryce, who each ran 10.73 at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

American record holder Ajeé Wilson won an 800m that lacked all three Rio Olympic medalists, who are barred from racing the event due to the IAAF’s new testosterone cap in middle distances. Wilson’s time, 2:00.76, was far off her 2019 world-leading time of 1:57.72 among eligible women.

Olympic and world heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam broke the Belgian long jump record twice, winning with a 6.86-meter leap. That ranks ninth in the world this year. The field lacked the last two Olympic champions, Americans Tianna Bartoletta and Brittney Reese.

A meeting of the last two Olympic pole vault champs went to Rio gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, who cleared 4.75 meters in swirling wind. London 2012 champ Jenn Suhr was third but remains No. 1 in the world this year with a 4.91-meter clearance from March 30.

Croatian Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic discus champion, lost her third straight Diamond League meet to start the season as she returns from injury. Perkovic, who placed third behind winner Cuban Yaimé Pérez, had not lost in back-to-back meets since returning from a six-month doping ban in 2011, according to Tilastopaja.org.

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Tokyo Paralympic triathlon test event cancels swim due to water bacteria

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TOKYO (AP) — High levels of bacteria forced the swimming portion of a triathlon test event for the Tokyo Paralympics to be canceled Saturday.

It’s the second setback in the triathlon for organizers of next year’s Olympics and Paralympics. An Olympic triathlon running event was shortened from 10km to 5km on Thursday because of what the International Triathlon Union (ITU) called “extreme levels” of heat.

Tokyo’s hot and humid summers are a major worry for Olympic organizers. The water issues are a reminder of the Rio Games, when high bacteria and virus levels were found in waters for sailing, rowing and open-water swimming.

In a statement, the ITU said E-coli levels were “more than two times over the ITU limits.” It said the water was at Level 4, the highest risk level.

E-coli bacteria, which normally live in the intestines of animals and people, can produce intestinal pain, diarrhea and a fever.

The venue in Tokyo Bay, called Odaiba, has been a concern for organizers, who have experimented with different measures to clean the water in the area, located in an urban part of central Tokyo.

The ITU is scheduled to hold it final test event on Sunday “depending on the latest water quality tests”, it said in a statement.

A few days ago the ITU described water quality conditions at the venue as “very good.” However, swimmers at a recent distance swimming event at the same venue complained of foul-smelling water.

The water temperature at the venue on Saturday was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with the air temperature hovering above 90.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya said “we are set to conduct a comprehensive review with the international federation.”

He said a triple-layer underwater screen will be installed for next year’s Olympics, replacing a single-layer.

“Based on the results of multiple research in the past, we believe that the multiple layer screen will assure the successful delivery of the competitions,” he said.

Filthy water plagued the Rio Olympics. The South American city lacks a functioning sanitation system for much of its population. Open water there tested high for bacteria and viruses, which confronted athletes in rowing, sailing and triathlon.

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