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

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

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

Alistair Brownlee, after Ironman, leans toward Olympic return

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Alistair Brownlee is already the only triathlete with multiple Olympic titles. In July, he is reportedly leaning toward another impressive feat, to win an Olympic gold medal the summer after completing the Kona Ironman World Championships.

The Brit Brownlee said he is “definitely swinging towards” trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games, according to the Times of London. Brownlee’s manager confirmed the stance while noting that his result in the Ironman Western Australia on Dec. 1 will play into the ultimate decision.

Brownlee previously reportedly said he was “50-50” on going for the Olympics and that he had to decide between focusing on the shorter Olympic distance or the Ironman, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon.

Other Olympic triathletes transitioned to the Ironman and never went back, such as 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany and two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True.

Brownlee finished 21st in Kona on Oct. 12 in 8 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds, which was 33:50 behind the winner Frodeno.

Brownlee won four half Ironmans between 2017 and 2018 (sandwiched by a hip surgery), then finished second to Frodeno at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Sept. 2.

One other triathlete won an Olympic title after completing the Kona Ironman — Austrian Kate Allen, who was seventh in Kona in 2002, then took gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

MORE: 2019 Kona Ironman World Championships Results

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Alberto Salazar appeals doping ban

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it has registered an appeal by track coach Alberto Salazar against his ban for doping violations, though a hearing will take several months to prepare.

CAS says Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown appealed against their four-year bans by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

After a multi-year USADA investigation, Salazar and Brown were found guilty of doping violations linked to the Nike Oregon Project training camp. USADA said Salazar ran experiments with supplements and testosterone, and possessed and trafficked the banned substance.

The case also related to falsified and incomplete medical records that disguised the work.

CAS says Salazar and Brown asked for more time to file “written submissions and evidence,” adding the hearing is “unlikely to take place before March.”

Verdicts typically take at least a further several weeks.

MORE: Mary Cain raises issues from being coached by Salazar

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