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Missy Franklin misses qualifying in 100m freestyle; Katie Ledecky advances

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — For Missy Franklin, another miss at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

The star of the London Games struggled to an 11th-place showing in the semifinals of the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night, failing to even make it to the final.

That leaves Franklin with only one individual race in Rio and just one more chance to bulk up her program: the 200 backstroke.

No matter what, Franklin’s bubbly personality will be much less of a presence at these Summer Games than it was four years ago.

“That speed just doesn’t feel like it’s quite there this meet,” she said. “No idea why. It’s super disappointing, but I really feel like my endurance is there, so it gives me a lot of hope for my 200 back.”

Franklin is going to her second Summer Games, but she won’t be nearly as busy this time around.

As a high schooler in London, Franklin took part in seven events, winning four golds and a bronze. She finished fifth in the 100 free, but won’t be part of that race at all this time around.

At age 21, Franklin hasn’t been able to recapture the magic that carried her to such heights in 2012. Outside of a gutsy runner-up finish in the 200 freestyle, she’s shaping up as one of the biggest flops of these trials.

Franklin finished seventh in the 100 backstroke, a race she won in London, and that knocks her out of consideration for the 4×100 medley relay.

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

Her dismal showing in the 100 free surely removes any possibility of taking part in the 4×100 free relay.

At most, Franklin will have only three events on her Rio agenda.

Katie Ledecky, meanwhile, could add to her growing program. She advanced as the seventh seed from the 100m freestyle semis (54.04). Abbey Weitzeil was the top qualifier at 53.57 seconds.

Also advancing were 19-year-old Simone Manuel (53.64), Amanda Weir (53.72), Dana Vollmer (53.74), Lia Neal (53.87), Kelsi Worrell (54.00) and Allison Schmitt (54.07).

Franklin could only produce a time of 54.24, while Natalie Coughlin‘s Olympic hopes likely ended altogether. The 12-time Olympic medalist struggled to a 14th-place showing in 54.87.

Ledecky may end up scratching to rest for other events. The 100m is not one of her strongest events — she’s the World champion in the 200m, 400m and 800m — though she could still be eligible for the 4x100m relay in Rio even if she pulls out.

MORE: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte cruise into 200m medley final at Trials

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics