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.

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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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