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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Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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