Missy Franklin earns Rio berth in 200m freestyle behind Katie Ledecky

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Missy Franklin stood beside the blocks, staring down the still water in her lane. Never had she faced so much pressure, yet she felt serene.

A night after she failed to make the Olympic team in the 100-meter backstroke – an event she won four years ago in London – Franklin rallied to finish second in the 200 freestyle Wednesday night at the U.S. trials.

It was good enough to earn her a spot in an individual event in Rio.

“That’s probably the most proud race I’ve ever swam in my entire career, coming back from such a loss last night and telling myself that I still have it in me to do whatever I believe I can do,” she said, tears glistening in her eyes.

Katie Ledecky cruised to victory in the race. Franklin was tied for second on the last turn and churned through the water to get her hand on the wall as runner-up.

“I told her after the race she’s one tough cookie,” Ledecky said. “That 2 race is for real, and there’s more to come from her.”

Up next are the 100 free on Thursday and the 200 backstroke on Friday, giving Franklin two more chances at further redemption. Four years ago, she took London by storm, winning five medals, including four golds, and spread her infectious smile and bubbly personality everywhere.

This time, just getting on the team has been a lot tougher.

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Franklin left college after swimming two years at California to turn pro last year. She juggles sponsor commitments, photo shoots and travel in between training and practice. The extra demands away from the pool were more than she had expected, but it’s her nature not to want to let anyone down.

After struggling to seventh in the 100 back, Franklin returned to her hotel room and re-thought things.

“I realized that my job here is not to make an Olympic team, it’s not to defend anything, it’s to swim well,” she said. “It’s me trying to work through how to deal with this kind of pressure that I’ve never really dealt with before and I think, as we just saw, I’m really starting to figure that out for myself.”

Franklin had her work cut out in the 200 free final. Besides Ledecky, there was defending Olympic champion Allison Schmitt (fourth) and Leah Smith (third), who had already made the team.

Her coach, Todd Schmitz, pumped his fists and charged down the steps of the arena to congratulate his swimmer.

She finally had reason to flash her trademark smile.

“Last night was really tough and coming back from that, I was telling myself, ‘I’m not done fighting. I’m not done with believing in myself,'” she said.

For a while, it looked like Franklin might only make the team as a relay swimmer. That’s hardly what she spent the last four years working for.

“People say there’s nothing like making your first Olympic team, but there’s really nothing like making your second Olympic team,” she said, laughing. “It’s moments like this that you kind of have to sit back and say, ‘You know what? I just did it.'”

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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