Ryan Lochte
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Swimmers prep for Olympic Trials at split meets this weekend

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Ryan Lochte is racing in Charlotte. Katie Ledecky is racing in Atlanta. Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin are training in Colorado.

The Olympic Trials are in six weeks, and the best U.S. swimmers are spread across the country.

An annual grand prix meet in Charlotte started Thursday, highlighted by the 11-time Olympic medalist Lochte, who resides in the Queen City.

Another meet in Atlanta begins Friday, with a field including the five-time 2015 World champion Ledecky.

Phelps was scheduled to compete in Atlanta but withdrew last week ahead of his baby boy being born.

Franklin signed up for neither meet and is believed to be training hard at home in Colorado, embarking on a blackout period for sponsorships as she focuses on Olympic Trials prep.

“We’re six weeks out of trials, and about another five weeks out of the Olympics, so everybody has dialed in now,” Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, told media Thursday. “This meet is probably the key window of time, about six weeks out, where, as an athlete and a coach, and kind of all the preparation comes together to make the adjustments. … So the information that will be gained from this weekend will be very, very important in terms of the preparation. And even as a standalone, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some tremendous swims.”

Lochte is entered in seven events from Friday through Sunday in Charlotte and said it will be his last-chance meet to determine what he swims at the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3.

The Charlotte meet finals are at 6 ET each night, with NBC Sports Live Extra coverage on Saturday and Sunday. USASwimming.org will have a live webcast all three nights.

Questions about Lochte’s event schedule center on whether he swims the grueling 400m individual medley at trials. That’s the only individual event Lochte won at the 2012 Olympics, but he contested the 400m IM at one meet in 2013 and 2014 combined.

He raced it a little more often since January 2015, has the fastest time in the U.S. this year and is contesting it again Friday.

The other questionable trials event for Lochte is the 200m backstroke, the only individual race he won at the 2008 Olympics. Lochte didn’t make the 2015 World Championships team in the 200m back and isn’t racing it this weekend.

Marsh marveled at Lochte’s individual-medley prowess in Thursday’s press conference, saying Lochte’s breaststroke is better than ever.

“Ryan has, I think, the best four strokes in the world, if you can put them all together,” Marsh said.

London Olympic champions Tyler Clary and Dana Vollmer are also competing in Charlotte.

The Atlanta meet also includes 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin and Olympic 100m free gold medalist Nathan Adrian.

But the headliner is Ledecky, who is entered in six events, including both individual medleys and the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles.

It was four years ago Friday that Ledecky stamped herself as an Olympic team favorite by winning the 800m freestyle in Charlotte with a personal best by more than four seconds.

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Emily Sisson a U.S. Olympic marathon trials favorite, thanks to Ireland

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Emily Sisson didn’t think she would become a professional runner until her last year of college. Now, at 28, she goes into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials as a contender for one of three Tokyo spots, if not the overall favorite.

“I’ve only done one marathon, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m an experienced marathoner,” Sisson said by phone last week from her Arizona base. “That’s the one question mark I’ve had all build-up.”

Predicting a marathon can be a crapshoot, but a Podiumrunner.com experts panel pegged Sisson to win. She is younger than any female U.S. Olympic marathoner since Anne Marie Lauck in 1996 (though fellow contender Jordan Hasay is a month younger).

Confidence stems from last April 28. Sisson clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow. She finished sixth — behind five East Africans. She crossed 3:25 ahead of sometimes training partner and mentor Molly Huddle, also a headliner at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

“We wanted to run faster,” Sisson said that day in London. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Sisson later mentioned a pre-race scare on the “Keeping Track” podcast. She tripped over a carpet jogging back from a bathroom, banged both knees 15 minutes before the start and got checked out physically by a chiropractor and mentally by her husband, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Sisson then covered the final half of that marathon alone, a foreign feeling for the longtime track runner. At one point, she thought about having never before run more than 23 miles.

Her mind could have also wandered to sports memories that led her to the world’s strongest marathon: Attending a 1999 Women’s World Cup match and seeing her hero, Mia Hamm. As a soccer-playing teenager, being asked by a friend to join a track relay team. Or being told during a record-breaking high school career that she was reminiscent of 2004 Olympic marathoner Jen Rhines.

Sisson, whose dad ran and mom did gymnastics at the University of Wisconsin, transferred after one year in Madison to Providence. She had a best NCAA Championships finish of fourth going into her last year. Before that final season, Sisson was prepared to leave competitive running once her NCAA eligibility exhausted in pursuit of an MBA.

“I had been going through a bit of a funk with running,” she said. “I was getting a little tired.”

Things changed the summer before her senior year. She vacationed with then-boyfriend/now-husband Shane Quinn, a fellow Providence runner, in Quinn’s native Ireland. At one point, they altered training, ditching tempo runs for local road races. Sisson never before competed on the roads. She doesn’t remember the distances being exact. She does remember winning.

“That was a new, fun thing that kept the sport kind of fresh for me,” she said. “You finish, and you go into a local pub and have sandwiches.”

Providence coach Ray Treacy put Sisson in more road races that fall. The opportunity was right. She had no cross-country eligibility left while she readied for the winter and spring track seasons. She went on to win the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 5000m, a springboard to the pros (while still going after the MBA).

Sisson was set back by injury in 2016 and placed 10th in the Olympic trials 10,000m. She kept training under Treacy, and perhaps just as important, with Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m. Huddle, seven years older than Sisson, made her marathon debut after the Rio Olympics.

“Emily really looks up to her and is inspired by her,” Treacy said. “Molly has helped her out in numerous ways in training. … Making sure she’s not going overboard with the training, not running too fast. She kind of keeps her under control.”

Sisson made the last two world championships teams in the 10,000m, but Treacy thought marathon since 2015. They signed her up for the 2019 London Marathon, in part because Huddle was going to race it as her third career 26.2-miler. And in part to get Sisson ready for the Olympic trials in 10 months’ time.

The build-up was better than ideal. Sisson ran the second-fastest half marathon in U.S. history (on a record-eligible course) in January. She became the third-fastest U.S. woman all-time at 10,000m in March.

Come April, Treacy was impressed again just by watching Sisson after she crossed the London finish line in what would be the second-fastest marathon for a U.S. woman in 2019.

“It didn’t look like it took anything out of her,” Treacy said. “She recovered really fast. Within minutes, she was feeling pretty good. That was a good sign.”

Sisson returned home to Quinn and their golden retriever, Desmond, who has 1,400 Instagram followers. She skipped a fall marathon to compete in the 10,000m at track worlds in Doha, placing a respectable 10th.

The recent marathon build-up for trials went just as well, if not better, than the training for London.

“I’m definitely putting a bit of pressure on myself with this one,” Sisson said. “But at the same time, I don’t get caught up in so much what other people say. I don’t really read the articles about who’s the favorite or what chance you have of making the team.”

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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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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic trials