Missy Franklin won’t defend Olympic 100m backstroke gold medal

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Missy Franklin still has work to do in order to get to the Rio Olympics.

The bubbly star of the 2012 London Games struggled to a seventh-place finish in the 100-meter backstroke Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, denying her a chance to defend the gold medal she won four years ago.

Racing just 23 minutes after qualifying for the final of the 200 free, the 21-year-old Franklin couldn’t pull off the grueling double. She finished nearly a body length behind winner Olivia Smoliga and runner-up Kathleen Baker, who will represent the U.S. in what was once Franklin’s signature event.

Franklin was nearly 2 seconds off her winning time in London, touching in 1 minute, 0.24 seconds. Smoliga won in 59.02 seconds, followed by Baker at 59.29.

“It’s going to be really hard not to be in that (event) this summer,” Franklin said. “But I cannot wait to watch how Olivia and Kathleen do, and I can’t wait to see what they’re capable of.”

The only swimmer to finish behind Franklin was 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin. The 33-year-old likely missed out on her best chance to make the team in an individual event, though there’s a chance she could still qualify in a relay.

ZACCARDI: Gold medalists running out of chances at Olympic Trials

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Coughlin’s result was not unexpected as she winds down her career. Franklin’s downfall is shocking, though not a total surprise.

The 21-year-old has struggled since turning pro last summer and admittedly was a bit overwhelmed by the enormous expectations she faced going into an Olympic year.

“I am feeling more pressure than I ever have before, but that’s all part of the process … learning how to deal with it and learning how to move forward,” Franklin said. “All I can do is the best I can do.”

Katie Ledecky was easily the top qualifier in the semifinals of the 200 free at 1:55.10, more than a second ahead of everyone else, as she looks to add a second event to her Rio schedule. She already won the 400 free, will be an overwhelming favorite in the 800 free and also entered the 100 free.

Franklin was fourth-fastest at 1:57.33, leaving her little chance of knocking off Ledecky but hoping that she could at least get the second spot in Wednesday’s final to claim an individual spot. A top-six finish would likely be good enough to put her on the team in the 4×200 relay.

“Right now, I need to make the team in whatever way that looks like,” Franklin said, already sounding a bit desperate.

MORE: Michael Phelps cruises into 200m butterfly final at Swimming Trials

Bobby Joe Morrow, triple Olympic sprint champion, dies at 84

Bobby Joe Morrow
AP
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Bobby Joe Morrow, one of four men to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at one Olympics, died at age 84 on Saturday.

Morrow’s family said he died of natural causes.

Morrow swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, joining Jesse Owens as the only men to accomplish the feat. Later, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt did the same.

Morrow, raised on a farm in San Benito, Texas, set 11 world records in a short career, according to World Athletics.

He competed in one Olympics, and that year was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year while a student at Abilene Christian. He beat out Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson.

“Bobby had a fluidity of motion like nothing I’d ever seen,” Oliver Jackson, the Abilene Christian coach, said, according to Sports Illustrated in 2000. “He could run a 220 with a root beer float on his head and never spill a drop. I made an adjustment to his start when Bobby was a freshman. After that, my only advice to him was to change his major from sciences to speech, because he’d be destined to make a bunch of them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

Johnny Gregorek
Getty Images
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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded a reported 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for the first two-plus laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field needs more U.S. meets

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