Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin beaten in Olympic Trials tune-up meet

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin appear to have their work cut out at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month to earn spots on Rio 4x100m freestyle relays.

Phelps and Franklin both swam their fastest 100m freestyles of 2016 in a trials tune-up meet in Austin, Texas, on Friday night, but neither posted a time that ranks in the top five among Americans in the event this year.

Phelps won the Austin men’s 100m freestyle in 49.49 seconds (full results here) against a field that did not include the top Americans in the event. He is ranked eighth in the U.S. Usually, the top six finishers in the 100m free at the Olympic Trials earn Olympic 4x100m free relay berths.

Phelps later was beaten in the 100m butterfly in Austin by Joseph Schooling of Singapore, 51.58 to 51.65, but Phelps remains fastest among Americans in the fly this year.

“Kind of happy, kind of not,” Phelps said in a Facebook video. “It’s decent, but I’m always really very hard on myself. … Today was a little motivating. … I would have been a lot happier if I was a half-second faster in both of the 100s today.”

The fastest Americans in the 100m free this year are Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.00) and University of Florida rising junior Caeleb Dressel (personal-best 48.74 in a different meet Friday). But no other American has broken 49 seconds, leaving a wide opening for Phelps and others.

Phelps has made the Olympic 4x100m free relay in the past without swimming the 100m free at trials, but given his lack of impressive 100m free times since the start of 2015, he may have to post a strong time in Omaha in three weeks to prove he deserves a relay spot.

His coach, Bob Bowman, is the U.S. Olympic men’s head coach. The coaching staff determines relay lineups at the Olympics.

In the Austin women’s 100m freestyle, Allison Schmitt won in 54.30 seconds, her fastest time since the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Franklin took second in 54.56, her fastest time this year but just ninth-fastest among Americans for 2016.

Franklin made the 100m freestyle final at every major international meet from 2012 through 2015, but she goes into the Olympic Trials as an underdog in the weakest of her four primary events. Dana Vollmer and Katie Ledecky have the fastest U.S. 100m freestyle times in 2016 at 53.59 and 53.75.

In other meets Friday, China’s Sun Yang won a 200m freestyle in Santa Clara, Calif., in 1:44.82, the fastest time in the world since 2013. Sun is the reigning Olympic 400m and 1500m free champion and earned silver in London in the 200m free.

Sun could now be favored to become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m and 1500m frees at one Olympics.

MORE: Phelps eyes at least three events at Olympic Trials

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Ryan Lochte was not competing this weekend. He is swimming at a small meet in Charlotte.

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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

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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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