Missy Franklin returns to winning ways in Minneapolis

Missy Franklin
AP
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Missy Franklin notched her first individual race victory in seven meets, coming from behind to take the 100m backstroke at a Pro Swim Series competition in Minneapolis on Friday night.

“Getting a win under my belt for the first time in quite a while feels really, really good,” Franklin told media in Minneapolis.

Katie Ledecky won a race for the second straight night, while a frustrated Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were beaten in their events, just like Thursday in the Olympic season-opening domestic meet.

“Maybe Katie can teach me how to swim fast in season,” Phelps joked to media in Minneapolis.

Full results are here. The meet concludes Saturday with finals at 7 p.m. ET, streamed on USASwimming.org.

Franklin overcame a characteristic slow start in the 100m back, was in fourth place at the 50-meter turn and stormed to edge Kylie Masse, 1.00.18 to 1:00.31. In November 2011, Franklin won this event in Minneapolis in 59.69 seconds.

Franklin, a four-time 2012 Olympic champion, came into this week without a victory in her previous six meets — in Santa Clara, Calif., in June, the World Championships and, most recently, four international World Cup stops. Her 100m back time Friday was faster than her previous eight times racing the distance at World Cups since Worlds.

Franklin bagged a record six gold medals at the 2013 World Championships and then suffered back spasms two days before the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

She persisted to win three individual NCAA Championships in March but dealt this spring and summer with transitions from collegian to professional, from California back to Colorado and from her college coach back to longtime coach Todd Schmitz, as well as continuing preventative maintenance of her back.

If Franklin makes the Olympic team at the trials in June and July, she will go into Rio looking to reclaim backstroke dominance from Australian Emily Seebohm and to battle top freestyle swimmers from Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Hungary and countrywoman Ledecky.

Also Friday, Phelps led after 150 meters of the 200m butterfly but was passed on the final length of the pool by longtime training partner Chase Kalisz. Kalisz won in 1:58.07, with Phelps taking second in 1:58.38. In 2011, Phelps won the 200m butterfly in 1:56.12 in Minneapolis.

“I’d love to go out and swim a lot faster than what I’m doing now, but just putting into really perspective, I think, it’s fine, really, where I am,” Phelps said. “If I can start here and build my way through each Grand Prix and get faster at each Grand Prix, that’s what we want.”

In August, Phelps clocked the world’s fastest time since 2009 — 1:52.94.

“I thought being in [better] shape racing [than last year] would be easier, but it seems like it’s harder,” said Phelps, who took second in a consolation final of a 100m backstroke 20 minutes later. “I don’t know why that is.”

Swimmers train to peak for summer meets and certainly not November meets, and Phelps is swimming this week after three weeks of training at altitude in Colorado Springs. Phelps previously finished third in the 100m butterfly Thursday, leaving pieces of banana bread in the University of Minnesota pool.

“Putting my body through this pain now is going to make the end of the [season] so much better,” Phelps said. “As hard as it is now and as frustrating as it is now, it’s going to make it that much better at the end. That’s just something I have to remember.”

Lochte finished fourth Friday in the 100m backstroke, an event he doesn’t usually swim in major international competition. On Thursday, he finished second in the 200m freestyle.

Then there’s Ledecky, who notched a victory and a personal best in separate events for the second straight day.

Ledecky won the 400m freestyle by two seconds in 4:02.67. It was well off her 3:58.37 world record, of course, but also faster than any other woman has clocked this year.

“I just didn’t feel like I had much pop tonight,” Ledecky told media in Minneapolis. “I can’t complain.”

Ledecky also finished eighth in the 50m free after a faster preliminary swim in the event of 25.45 seconds, which was .92 under her previous personal best.

On Thursday, Ledecky won the 200m free and clocked a personal best in the 400m individual medley. She is not expected to have designs on competing in the 50m free or the 400m IM at the Rio Olympics but could swim the 400m IM at the Olympic trials.

In other Friday events, Nathan Adrian won the 50m free in a time .04 slower than his World Championships silver medal time from August. Cammile Adams, also a World silver medalist, took the women’s 200m butterfly.

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

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan
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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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