Missy Franklin breaks through in Orlando

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The frustration Missy Franklin felt coming into the meet could have cascaded off her black swim cap, along with plenty of pool water, after she touched the wall, saw her time and flashed a smile.

The four-time 2012 Olympic champion clocked 59.80 seconds to win the 100m backstroke at a Pro Swim Series meet in Orlando on Friday night.

The victory was nice, as Franklin went winless at her last meet in January, but the time was more gratifying.

Franklin broke one minute in the 100m back for the first time since she took fifth at the World Championships on Aug. 4.

“Our assistant coach Eric, it’s his birthday today,” Franklin told media in Orlando. “So I’m going to print out results, put a bow on it and give it to him.”

Since Worlds, Franklin swam the event on more than 10 occasions, seeing five digits on the scoreboard every time until Friday night (1:00:03 for example in the finals of her previous two meets).

“I can’t even tell you, to get that four digits up there,” Franklin said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I’ve been working for that for so long. My backstroke has been faster than it’s ever been in practice, and I knew that I could get under that tonight.”

Franklin has endured disappointment and frustration in the last two years, either due to the back spasms that slowed her at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships or unsatisfactory times and results last summer and fall.

She earned zero individual golds at the biggest meets of 2014 (Pan Pacs) and 2015 (Worlds). From June through October, she entered six meets and won zero individual events.

Surprising for a phenom who won six gold medals at the 2013 World Championships at age 18, just before heading to college at California.

On Friday, Franklin beat a 100m back field that included 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin (fifth, 1:01.81), the fastest American in the event in 2015.

Full meet results are here. All swimmers are training to peak at the Olympic trials from June 26-July 3 in Omaha.

Franklin also finished second in the 200m freestyle behind World champion Katie Ledecky on Thursday in Orlando.

She’s slated to swim the 200m backstroke and 100m freestyle on the meet’s final day Saturday (finals at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Also Friday, Michael Phelps finished fourth in his only event, the 100m backstroke, which he’s never contested at an Olympics and isn’t expected to swim at the Olympic trials this summer.

“It’s one of the better 100 backs I’ve had in the last couple of years,” Phelps said.

Ryan Murphy, a California junior who finished fifth in the 200m back at the 2015 Worlds, won the 100m back on Friday. Olympic champion Matt Grevers was third.

Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian won the 50m freestyle in 21.70, easily beating Florida sophomore Caeleb Dressel, who touched in 22.06 for second. Dressel broke Adrian’s American record in the 50-yard freestyle two weeks ago.

“The sky’s the limit for that kid [Dressel],” Adrian said.

Phelps, Adrian and Dressel are slated for the 100m freestyle Saturday, the most anticipated event of the meet.

Phelps’ goal?

“Not get pummeled by Nathan,” he joked.

MORE: Michael Phelps has no worries about family going to Rio

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

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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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