Minneapolis Grand Prix

AP

Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky win to end Minneapolis meet

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Michael Phelps earned his first win in his final race at a Pro Swim Series meet in Minneapolis on Saturday night.

Phelps captured the 200m individual medley in 1:59.30, beating Olympian Conor Dwyer by 1.43 seconds at the Olympic season-opening domestic meet. Phelps, the three-time reigning Olympic 200m IM champion, has the fastest time in the world this year — 1:54.75 set in August.

Swimmers peak for summer meets and not November ones, so being 4.55 seconds slower on Saturday was not a concern.

Phelps finished the meet, his first in three months, with a win, a runner-up and a third-place finish among five finals swims. Full meet results are here.

“I’m happy that I was about where I was at the end of last season before Nationals [in August], and it was still with a terrible last 50 [meters] and a bad finish,” Phelps, who swam 1:59.39 on June 21 and 1:57.58 at the Minneapolis meet in November 2011, told media in Minneapolis. “Coming off of this, it’s just really working on all the small things. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re finally in shape again.”

More impressive was Missy Franklin, who snapped a six-meet drought with her first individual race win since June on Friday. Franklin looked even stronger Saturday in her trademark event, winning the 200m backstroke in 2:07.24.

That’s Franklin’s second-fastest time ever in her world-record event at a meet that’s not an Olympics, World Championships or U.S. Summer Nationals.

“Beyond ecstatic,” Franklin told media in Minneapolis.

Katie Ledecky finished the meet with her third victory in as many days, taking the 800m freestyle in 8:19.16. In a rarity, another swimmer was fairly close to her — 17-year-old Becca Mann. Mann was 2.61 seconds behind and outsplit Ledecky over the final 400 meters, swimming the second half of the race faster than her first half.

Ledecky’s time was 11.77 seconds slower than her world record set Aug. 8, while Mann swam the fastest 800m free by an American other than Ledecky since 2010 (Kate Ziegler).

Franklin and Ledecky went head-to-head in the 100m freestyle later Saturday. Neither won, but Ledecky was faster than Franklin by .31 after the two had matching times in the morning preliminary heats.

Simone Manuel touched first in 54.19, with Ledecky in fourth at 54.95 and Franklin in sixth.

Ledecky has a shot at making the U.S. Olympic 4x100m free relay pool (top six at trials generally make the pool) but is ranked No. 9 overall in the U.S. in the event this year. Franklin is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for the year.

“My shorter are events are a little better than my longer events, but I think that’s just from being in pretty tough training,” Ledecky told media in Minneapolis.

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian won the men’s 100m freestyle in 48.49, which was .18 off his seventh-place swim at the World Championships on Aug. 6.

The next notable swim meets are Winter Nationals (which Phelps said he plans to swim) in Federal Way, Wash., from Dec. 3-5 and Duel in the Pool in Indianapolis from Dec. 11-12 (and on NBC on Dec. 19 from 4-6 p.m. ET), featuring Franklin and Ryan Lochte.

VIDEO: Katie Ledecky on ‘TODAY’ in 1998

Katie Ledecky stars on opening night in Minneapolis

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Katie Ledecky outdueled Missy Franklin to win the 200m freestyle and, 45 minutes later, chopped 2.52 seconds off her 400m individual medley personal best at a Pro Swim Series meet in Minneapolis on Thursday night.

Michael PhelpsRyan Lochte and Missy Franklin all racked up top-three finishes but zero victories on the first night of the Olympic season-opening domestic meet. Full results are here.

The meet continues through Saturday, with finals at 7 p.m. ET live on USASwimming.org.

Phelps, in his first meet since winning three races at the U.S. Championships in August, finished third in the 100m butterfly in 52.99 seconds, .42 behind winner Giles Smith. Phelps, a three-time Olympic 100m fly champion, clocked a winning 52.26 in this same meet in November 2011.

Phelps, who raced with a thick black beard, said he made a mistake eating banana bread before the race.

“I had a couple pieces come up the last 50,” he told media in Minneapolis, smiling. “I thought about shaving, but I didn’t really want to. I’ve shaved once since Nationals.”

Phelps also finished 10th overall in the 200m freestyle in 1:50.39. In 2011, he won this event in Minneapolis in 1:46.88.

Phelps hasn’t been focusing on the 200m free in his comeback from a 20-month competitive retirement following the 2012 Olympics but may want to post a time to make him eligible for the 4x200m free relay at the Rio Olympics. He came to Minneapolis ranked 17th in the U.S. in the 200m free this year and did not improve on his best time of 2015.

Phelps said a main objective is to better his times with every meet in the run-up to the Olympic trials.

“If I can really, finally take what I do here and transition it into meeet by meet by meet,” he said. “That’s something that I failed at last [season]. … I’m old now, and I get tired a lot faster.”

Lochte, who came back from injuries to win his fourth straight World title in the 200m individual medley on Aug. 6, finished second to Conor Dwyer in the 200m free on Thursday and was disqualified from the 100m butterfly final for a false start after qualifying with the second-fastest time.

“The official came over to me [after the race], and he was like, Ryan, you’re disqualified,” Lochte told media in Minneapolis. “I was like, all right. He could have told me that before the race started so I didn’t have to go through that pain.”

In the women’s 200m free, Ledecky and Franklin went one-two, followed by Olympic champion Allison Schmitt. Ledecky won in 1:55.37, a comfortable 1.36 seconds ahead of Franklin.

Ledecky’s time was .21 slower than her World title-winning time Aug. 5, which is impressive because swimmers train to peak for Worlds but certainly not for November meets.

Ledecky came back 45 minutes later for the 400m individual medley, an event she doesn’t regularly swim but said in August she was considering adding to her Olympic trials schedule and stayed coy about Thursday. She finished third in 4:39.18, behind Becca Mann and Olympian Caitlin Leverenz.

Ledecky’s previous personal best in the 400m IM was 4:41.70, which was ranked No. 9 in the U.S. this year. She improved to sixth in the U.S. this year with that finish. The top two at the Olympic trials in June make the Olympic team in the event.

In the women’s 100m butterfly, Kelsi Worrell edged Olympic champion Dana Vollmer by .16. Worrell is the fastest U.S. woman in the event this year, and Vollmer is now No. 4. Vollmer, 27, is coming back after having a baby boy March 6.

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Missy Franklin embraces ‘disappointments’ going into Olympic season

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In August, Michael Phelps swam his fastest times in six years. Ryan Lochte captured a fourth straight World Championship. Katie Ledecky (re-)broke world records.

Meanwhile, Missy Franklin has entered six meets since mid-June and won zero individual events.

She dealt with the transition from a decorated NCAA career to becoming a professional swimmer, a move and coaching change and continued to take preventative care of her back.

Franklin, who won four golds at the 2012 Olympics and a record six at the 2013 Worlds, began experiencing adversity at the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, when she needed help walking due to back spasms two days before the meet in Australia.

The pain then was a “10 out of 10,” she said, and she left the meet with one hard-fought bronze medal from four individual races.

Franklin persisted and starred in college last fall and winter, winning three individual NCAA Championships for California in March.

Then she turned professional immediately after that sophomore season, moved back into her parents’ Colorado home (the basement, specifically) after the school year and returned to her old coach, Todd Schmitz. She had to quickly transition to international swimming (in 50-meter pools versus 25-yard NCAA pools) after an exhausting NCAA campaign.

Then Franklin went winless in five events at a tune-up meet in Santa Clara, Calif., in June and finished second, third, fifth and seventh in four events at the World Championships in August. She wanted more.

“You find out how tough you are,” Franklin told media Wednesday in Minneapolis, site of a Pro Swim Series meet Thursday through Saturday (finals at 7 p.m. ET on USASwimming.org). “You find out how hard it is to get up and go to practice and keep working at it and go to a meet and still be disappointed despite knowing that you put in 110 percent effort every single day. That’s probably one of the worst feelings ever, is knowing you did everything you could, and that it wasn’t where you wanted it to be.”

That’s left Franklin with two options.

“You take it, and you say, OK, well then that’s it, like I guess, if I’m going to try this hard and not getting anything out of it, then why try,” she said. “Or you can say, I’m not going to settle for that. Like I’m going to keep trying my best, and I’m going to try even harder than I thought I was doing before, and I’m going to see where that gets me. And so it’s just an incredible growth experience all around.”

It’s the beginning of the Olympic season, and the focus is on peaking first for the Olympic trials in June and July and then the Rio Games in August.

“The most important thing for me right now is not to gauge where I’m at based on my times,” Franklin said. “Most importantly, if what I’m doing in practice is translating into a race.”

Franklin kept busy after Worlds, racing in FINA World Cups in Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. She racked up podium finishes but never the top step.

Australian Emily Seebohm is now queen of the backstrokes. Franklin’s freestyle events are loaded with talent from Australia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden and Ledecky.

“This weekend will probably tell me a lot,” Franklin said. “It was hard to kind of gauge where I was at with World Cups because you take two weeks off, and then you train for three weeks, and then you race, how can you really gauge that? That was really more about racing experience.”

Franklin laughed when asked to compare herself in 2012 — a 17-year-old baby who loved Justin Bieber, she said — to now — a 20-year-old woman.

“I think back in London to I was kind of at the point where my career just kept going up and up and up and up,” she said. “And now, I’m at a stage in my career where I had those ups and downs. I’ve had those disappointments. And I didn’t have that back then. And so, while that’s been really hard to go through, you can’t have a career without that. You can’t have a sports career. You can’t hope to develop yourself as a person without those kinds of disappointments as an athlete. As hard as it is working through that, I think that’s been really, really good for me.”

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