Missy Franklin
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Missy Franklin’s book adds new details about career moments

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Often, books on athletes reveal little new information. They compile previously reported anecdotes and quotes into a life story.

But in Missy Franklin‘s “Relentless Spirit,” even the biggest fan of the affable champion will learn something. Franklin said she took inspiration from other books, specifically naming Natalie Coughlin‘s “Golden Girl” from 2006.

“If it came up, and we felt like it needed to be shared, and it was us being honest, then it went in,” Franklin said, adding that the toughest inclusions were not about her story, but her parents’ childhoods.

Even after Franklin struggled in Rio, there were no reservations about sharing that honesty in the final chapters of her book.

“We laughed about it,” Franklin said, laughing. “We said, OK, well, obviously it didn’t go too great this summer, but it’s going to make for a better ending. Probably going to sell more books because of it. It’s kind of interesting, because it has more meaning to it.”

The book’s title includes one of Franklin’s favorite words. “Relentless” has been written on her goggle straps and wrist at meets.

“I feel like people don’t really think that’s a word that represents me, because they see me as this really bubbly, outgoing, happy person,” Franklin said. “Relentless is this really intimidating, kind of ferocious word. But that’s how I am when I compete. So I like writing that somewhere I can see it to remind myself it’s OK to be happy, have fun and enjoy yourself, but at the same time, this is go time.”

But that’s not what she wrote at the Olympics.

For Rio, a sports psychologist asked Franklin how much she felt she had to give.

Franklin, already down from a poor Olympic Trials, said 10 percent out of 100. So she wrote “10 percent” on her foot, hoping to give 100 percent of her 10 percent in her swims.

Here are five of the most interesting takeaways from the book:

1. Garbage Cookies

After Franklin decided to swim her last high school season in 2012-13, a mother of a swimmer she knew from a rival high school sent Franklin’s mom cookies and a Merry Christmas card. The note read, “We hope you’ll convince Missy NOT to swim with the team so that the other girls will have their chance to shine.”

The cookies were thrown in the garbage, and Franklin swam for Regis Jesuit in Colorado that senior year.

2. Missy’s Metal Rod

When Franklin suffered her back spasms in 2014, her massage therapist said it felt like there was a metal rod in her back and had never felt anything like it. Franklin had rated the pain a 10 on a scale of one to 10.

Franklin’s father, Richard, wrote, “I caught myself thinking her career might be over.”

Franklin later learned she had a minor case of scoliosis that caused irritable facet syndrome (aka the spasms).

3. Leaving Cal for Colorado

One of Franklin’s toughest times was breaking the news to her college coach, Teri McKeever, that Franklin was leaving McKeever’s group to return to her longtime hometown coach, Todd Schmitz, in 2015. Franklin chose to do this in person and rehearsed the conversation before setting up the meeting.

“Everyone would have been able to see through it if I wrote, oh, I talked to Teri about this, and it was great and fun and everybody was happy and went home,” Franklin said. “I can’t even imagine how much turmoil, how much change, how much I put [McKeever] through. I wanted to make sure that was evident [in the book].”

When Franklin sent McKeever a note to request a meeting, McKeever told Franklin she was free for a phone call five minutes later. Franklin didn’t know what to do, so she called McKeever and told her about leaving.

“And what came back [from McKeever on the phone],” Franklin wrote, “well, it was more than I expected.”

Franklin’s mother, D.A., added, “There’s so much that gets lost over the telephone, especially when you’re delivering a difficult piece of news. The emotions are lost, or bent out of shape. You can’t really get a good read on the other person. And Missy just felt awful about it.”

Franklin wrote that “tension and uncertainty” followed her around the pool after she told McKeever she was leaving in January 2015 through the NCAA Championships that March.

Franklin’s father said he sometimes questioned “why Missy wasn’t swimming backstroke” at the University of California. Franklin’s best stroke was backstroke, but she was often put in other races, even distance freestyles, to maximize her skill for the sake of the team. Franklin and her dad both wrote that they understood those event decisions.

“I believed that a lot of what Missy was being asked to do really wasn’t in her best interests, but she never questioned it. In fact, she loved it,” Richard wrote. “She was team-first, all the way. And I don’t set this out as a criticism of Teri McKeever, not at all. It’s just that Teri’s agenda, as head coach of Cal swimming, was to win meets and keep that top three ranking and get to a national championship.”

4. Rio Relay

One of the signs of Franklin’s struggles in Rio was the decision by U.S. coaches to leave her off the 4x200m freestyle relay final quartet.

Normally, the top two 200m free finishers from the Olympic Trials are guaranteed spots in that final, but Franklin was left off in favor off Katie LedeckyLeah Smith and Allison Schmitt, the other top finishers from Trials, and Maya DiRado, who didn’t swim the 200m free at Trials.

Franklin wrote that one of the U.S. coaches, Stanford’s Greg Meehan, gave her the option of sitting out the morning prelims.

She would have a spot waiting for her in the final, unless the morning swimmers performed better than her individual 200m free times. Franklin didn’t want to risk not being on the relay at all, so she told Meehan that she wanted to swim in the morning but that she would be fine with whatever the coaches decided.

Schmitt was faster than Franklin in the 4x200m free relay prelims, while DiRado was strong in her individual events in Rio — both individual medleys up to that point.

After the prelims, USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch broke the news to Franklin.

“Frank Busch told me he wished things were different, but that this was the lineup he and his coaches thought gave us the best chance to win,” Franklin wrote. “Basically, he said all the right things.”

5. New Tattoo

After the Olympics, the Colorado native inked her second tattoo — a Rocky Mountain vista on her side.

“These mountains remind me that wherever I go, as long as I live with intention and purpose, I am home — and that, even in struggle, God is with me, always,” Franklin wrote.

Her first tattoo was of the Olympic rings after the 2012 London Games.

MORE: Franklin eyes new spark after swimming ‘breakup’

Takeaways from the abbreviated 2019-20 season in ski and snowboard sports

Chris Corning
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Most ski sports don’t hold world championships in even-numbered years, but the coronavirus pandemic brought World Cup campaigns to an early conclusion two years ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

With the seasons over, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team is collecting goggles to provide to health-care workers.

Here’s what we learned in various sports:

ALPINE: Mikaela Shiffrin has company 

The U.S. ski star was on pace to win her fourth straight World Cup season trophy before her father’s sudden passing in early February. She planned to return in March with an outside chance at keeping her title, but the remaining races of the season were canceled. Italy’s Federica Brignone took the trophy, with Shiffrin second.

While Shiffrin held a substantial lead in the World Cup before her hiatus, she wasn’t as unbeatable as she was in the 2018-19 season, when she won a staggering 17 times. That’s an impossible bar to clear, but Shiffrin’s rivals made up enough ground to make future World Cup season titles and the career win record seem less certain than they seemed a year ago.

In Shiffrin’s final slalom race, a discipline in which she has rarely lost in recent years, she placed third behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson. Ten days before that, she was second to Vlhova, whose progress impressed Shiffrin. That marked that first time since 2014 that she lost two straight slaloms in the same season. (She was second in the 2016-17 season finale and second again in the 2017-18 season opener, then won 12 of the next 13 slaloms.)

Shiffrin’s ability to get on the podium in any race, no matter the discipline, will make her the World Cup favorite for years to come. But the big prize won’t be as easy as she has made it seem in recent years, and at 66 career victories, she’ll need time to catch Lindsey Vonn‘s women’s record of 82 wins and Ingemar Stenmark‘s overall record of 86.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Diggins, Bjornsen stay in world’s elite 

Jessie Diggins will forever be remembered for winning the 2018 Olympic team sprint with Kikkan Randall as NBC’s Chad Salmela screamed “HERE COMES DIGGINS,” but she also has a strong World Cup resume that she continues to build.

Diggins finished sixth in the season standings for the second straight year, a drop from her second-place finish in 2018 but still comfortably in the top 10. She was joined there by Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, who eighth-place season put her in the top 10 for the second time.

Bjornsen led the three-stage season opener in Ruka, Finland, after taking third in the sprint and finished fourth overall, one place ahead of Diggins, who took third in the pursuit. Diggins added four more podium finishes before the end of the season.

NORDIC COMBINED: Norway takes control 

Jarl Magnus Riiber won his second straight World Cup title at age 22, with fellow Norwegian Joergen Graabak taking a career-high second. Two more Norwegians were in the top six Jens Luraas Oftebro (fourth) and Espen Bjoernstad (sixth). 

In women’s Nordic combined, which is on track to become an Olympic event, U.S. athlete Tara Geraghty-Moats was a close second to Russia’s Stefaniya Nadymova.

READ: Geraghty-Moats has eyes on 2026

SKI JUMPING: U.S. women shut out 

A decade after leading the charge to get women’s ski jumping in the Olympics and eight years after teenager Sarah Hendrickson won the World Cup, the U.S. women went a whole season without an athlete picking up World Cup points. Hendrickson postponed her retirement but competed only on the Continental Cup this season.

U.S. women also won two of the first three ski jumping world championships Lindsey Van in 2009 and Hendrickson in 2013.

In men’s jumping, Austria’s Stefan Kraft edged out Germany’s Karl Geiger to reclaim the World Cup title he last held in 2017. Geiger’s previous career best was 10th in 2019. Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, last year’s champion, took third.

FREESTYLE SKIING: Blunck keeps flying

U.S. halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck followed up his second straight world championship in 2019 with his first World Cup season title. Blunck won both events in the U.S. — December’s competition at Copper Mountain and February’s event at Mammoth Mountain. 

Colby Stevenson (slopestyle) and Alexander Hall (big air) were second in their events. Hall won twice, landing a switch left double 1800 to win in the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. Stevenson also won at the X Games in Aspen.

In women’s competition, 18-year-old Marin Hamill was second in slopestyle, and Jaelin Kauf finished in the top three for the third straight year.

French skier Perrine Laffont had a dominant season in women’s moguls, winning all six regular moguls events and two of four dual moguls, to take her second straight World Cup title.

SNOWBOARDING: Corning wins in Atlanta and in World Cup

Atlanta’s SunTrust Park hosted a World Cup big air competition, with Chris Corning and Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi winning. Corning also won in Cardrona, New Zealand, and took his second big air season title to go along with slopestyle titles in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Dusty Henricksen was third in World Cup slopestyle on the strength of a win at Mammoth Mountain, followed by fellow U.S. teen Justus Henkes.

U.S. women’s snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino won the only World Cup slopestyle events each one entered. Anderson also won the X Games slopestyle.

Olympic and world halfpipe champion Chloe Kim sat out the season after breaking an ankle in March 2019 and enrolling at Princeton.

BIATHLON: Never count out Dunklee 

Susan Dunklee hasn’t had great success on the World Cup circuit since taking a world championship silver medal in 2017, when she finished a career-best 10th in the World Cup, but she once again took world championship silver in the sprint at Antholz.

Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe won the men’s World Cup title despite missing two weeks after the birth of his first child, edging Frenchman Martin Fourcade by two points to spoil the seven-time World Cup champion’s final season.

Boe won his second straight World Cup title, as did Italy’s Dorothea Weirer in the women’s competition.

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Simon Ammann ramps up for one more run at Olympic ski jumping

Simon Ammann
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Simon Ammann, the Swiss ski jumper who gained fame for his resemblance to Harry Potter in 2002 and went to win all four Olympic ski jumps on North American soil this century, has walked back talk of retirement and now says he wants to continue through the 2022 Olympics.

Ammann won the normal hill and large hill in Salt Lake City in 2002. European ski jumpers don’t necessarily get attention from U.S. talk shows, but the 20-year-old Ammann had two things that set him apart. First, his wins were tremendous upsets. Second, he looked like Harry Potter.

He wound up appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which makes him a wild-card connection in the Kevin Bacon game the peripatetic actor was the other guest on the show that night, and Ammann happily posed with Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick after the show.

Eight years later, Ammann duplicated the feat in Vancouver. This time, he left behind the Harry Potter glasses behind, though he made an enthusiastic walk through the mixed zone wearing comically oversized sunglasses that made him look like the Buggles’ Trevor Horn in the “Video Killed the Radio Star” video, the first music video on MTV.

In 2010, his victories weren’t quite as unexpected. He won the World Cup season title that year, sandwiched between two second-place finishes.

In 2002, on the other hand, he took off from the Olympic hill at Park City having never won a World Cup event. His two wins in the Olympics were his first two in any international competition in the FIS database.

Ammann has also had success in major competition in Asia. He took gold and silver in the 2007 world championships in Sapporo, Japan, the first two of his four career world championship medals. He also won a World Cup event in Sapporo in 2010.

In recent years, though, Ammann hasn’t been competitive on the World Cup circuit. He has been on the podium only once since 2015. Since taking his last major-event medal in 2011, his best result in the world championships was seventh place in 2013.

But he’s already shown he can, like Harry Potter, conjure a surprising performance.

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