Matt Grevers, after tearfully watching Olympics on airport runway, keeps swimming

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For years, U.S. swimmer Matt Grevers thought he would be in Rio de Janeiro on the night of Aug. 8, 2016.

Instead, he was at the Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport.

It’s 8:35 p.m., and Grevers is seated on his plane, which is taxiing to its takeoff runway. Grevers is unmissable at 6 feet, 8 inches, but in this instance he’s trying his best to be inconspicuous.

That’s because he’s ignoring (or at least delaying) protocol to turn off his phone. Grevers is watching on a stream the finalists being introduced for the Olympic men’s 100m backstroke final.

It’s the race where Grevers took silver at the 2008 Olympics, and then won in 2012. But on June 27, he finished third in the Olympic Trials 100m back, missing the Olympic team by one spot.

So he watched the Olympic final from his seat, shielding his phone from flight attendants, as Ryan Murphy and David Plummer finished first and third in Rio on Aug. 8.

“I had tears well up in my eyes,” Grevers said, pausing briefly before making sure to add, “of joy.”

“There’s a tiny tinge of jealousy to not be there, but so much pride in both David Plummer and Ryan Murphy.”

The race finished as Grevers’ plane was at about full speed on the runway. He had spent time in Wisconsin at a cabin owned by his wife’s family.

Grevers will race for the first time since the Olympic Trials, headlining this weekend’s USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Austin, Texas (Friday through Sunday on NBC Sports).

There were reports at the Olympic Trials that the 31-year-old Grevers was retiring, but that obviously wasn’t the case.

“I would be lying [if I didn’t say] I might be done competing at the highest level,” Grevers said. “I’m for sure going to swim forever, even masters [meets], so I don’t think I’d ever retire, but trying to be an elite swimmer, definitely I’ve had my doubts on that. Just giving time to think about everything, I really do love swimming at the highest level. So I’m going to keep trying to do it until, really, I’m not successful at all anymore.”

Grevers knows what it’s like to rebound from missing a team.

In 2010, he was fourth in the 100m back at the U.S. Championships, failing to qualify for both the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships and 2011 World Championships. Then he set 100m back personal bests at both the 2012 Olympic Trials and 2012 Olympics, taking gold in London.

The task will of course be more difficult to return to the top now that Grevers is north of 30. Murphy, who swept the backstrokes in Rio, is only 21 years old and broke Grevers’ Olympic record in the 100m back.

Plummer announced his retirement on Wednesday.

“It’s sad to see him go and retire, but selfishly I guess I can say that makes making the world team a little easier,” Grevers said.

Nobody other than Murphy and Plummer swam within three tenths of Grevers’ best time of 2016 in the 100m back. One of the two 100m back spots for the world championships in Budapest in July is there for the taking.

In another big life change, Grevers became a father on Nov. 9 when wife, former U.S. swimmer Annie Chandler, gave birth to daughter Skylar.

“I have not had the focus and time to work on my stroke as much, so no sharpening on my skills,” said Grevers, who still trains in Tucson, Ariz., with coach Rick DeMont. “Right now, I’m maybe an 80 out of 100 ready to race fast.”

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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