Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin under pressure; Tuesday finals preview

Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin
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OMAHA — Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, the two best U.S. swimmers this time four years ago, face major tests in finals at the Olympic Trials on Tuesday night

The injured Lochte qualified fifth fastest into the 200m freestyle final, an event where he was the top American at the 2012 Olympics (fourth).

“I’ve never raced in this much pain,” Lochte said Monday night.

Franklin qualified seventh fastest into the 100m backstroke final, which she won at the London Games.

It’s possible neither races those events in Rio, since only the top two Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports app) will clinch an individual Olympic berth.

“Having been here before, I’m putting a lot of that pressure on myself,” Franklin said Tuesday morning ahead of her first of what she hopes is four finals this week. “Remember, hey, this is the best in the country right now. You’re racing against the greatest swimmers in all of the United States. Take it as an honor.”

An event-by-event look at Tuesday night’s semifinals and finals session:

Women’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals
Olympic champion Allison Schmitt, 2013 World champion Missy Franklin and 2015 World champion Katie Ledecky headline arguably the deepest event for both genders. Ledecky (1:55.60) and Leah Smith (1:56.47), who went one-two in the 400m free final Monday, were one-two in the 200m free prelims Tuesday morning. Schmitt was fourth and Franklin seventh. The top eight between two semis make Wednesday night’s final.

Men’s 200m Freestyle Final
This is Ryan Lochte‘s best remaining chance to make the Olympic team, given as many as the top six finishers could make the 4x200m free relay pool. Lochte is better in the 200m individual medley later in the meet, but only two spots are available there (with Michael Phelps in that field, too). He will be hoping that not having to swim Tuesday morning will help ease the groin injury suffered Sunday in the 400m individual medley, where he ended up finishing third. Lochte was fifth overall in the 200m free semis, but only .62 behind top seed Conor Dwyer. The second, third and fourth seeds are all at least 10 years younger than Lochte.

Women’s 100m Backstroke Final
Franklin must come back about 23 minutes after the 200m free semis for this race. She called her 100m back semifinal Monday night “sluggish.” In the last year, Franklin has also expressed frustration with some of her times as she returned from back spasms that slowed her at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and the transition out of NCAA swimming in 2015. Her semifinal time — 1:00.45 — was 1.29 seconds slower than top seed Olivia Smoliga and 1.09 seconds slower than No. 2 Kathleen Baker. Also, 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin snuck into this final as the eighth seed.

Men’s 100m Backstroke Final
This looks like three men racing for two Olympic spots — Olympic champion Matt Grevers, fellow veteran David Plummer and Ryan Murphy, a rising University of California senior. The world record could go down, too, since Plummer was .18 off of Aaron Peirsol‘s mark from 2009 in the semifinals.

SWIM TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final
Two first-time Olympians will likely be crowned here. Rising Indiana sophomore Lilly King came into this meet as the fastest in the U.S. this year and was also tops in the preliminary heats and semifinals. Molly Hannis and Katie Meili are the No. 2 and 3 seeds also eyeing their first Olympics, while former world-record holder Jessica Hardy was fourth best in the semifinals.

Men’s 200m Butterfly Semifinals
Unlike Lochte and Franklin, Michael Phelps should feel no pressure tonight. He needs to be in the top eight between two semifinals to advance to Wednesday night’s final. In 2015, Phelps clocked the fastest time in the world in this event since 2009. On Tuesday morning, he was the fastest man in the prelims.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley Semifinals
Maya DiRado, who won the 400m IM on Sunday to make her first Olympic team, qualified fastest into the semifinals. Caitlin Leverenz, who earned bronze at the London Olympics in this event, was .23 behind. Like with Phelps, they should easily make top eight to reach Wednesday’s final.

MORE: Lochte must draw on painful past to make Olympic team

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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