Franklin Looking for a Lucky Seven

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By John Lohn

OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. THE way Missy Franklin punctuated her Olympic Trials was fitting. For months, the hype surrounding Franklin and her Olympic potential has been huge, with many experts expecting the 17-year-old to collect a fistful of medals. So, with all that hoopla growing, it made sense for the teenager to bring some fireworks to the CenturyLink Center crowd.

Blowing away the competition in the 200 backstroke, Franklin registered a nearly two-plus win over Elizabeth Beisel behind a time of 2:06.12. The victory by Franklin set up a seven-event schedule at the London Games, which is more than what Natalie Coughlin and Katie Hoff chewed on during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. How many medals can Franklin secure in London? That answer remains unclear. If nothing else, she's past the first hurdle — simply setting up her arduous program.

There were primarily positives out of Franklin's week, highlighted by her backstroke performances. Before blasting away at the 200 back, Franklin established an American record in the 100 backstroke, going 58.85. That effort ranks No. 1 in the world and puts the target on Franklin later this month. In other events, though, she'll play the role of the hunter.

While she shined in the backstroke, Franklin failed to produce personal-best times in the 100 and 200 freestyles, settling for marks which rank 20th and ninth in the world, respectively. Based on the fact that she's been 53.63 in the 100 free and 1:55.06 in the 200 free, it's fair to expect Franklin's freestyle times to fall in London.

Of course, her schedule will be more difficult. Not only will Franklin face the best of the best, rather than only domestic competition, she'll have to balance relay duties, too. Here's a look at what her schedule will look like later this month.

Day 1
400 Freestyle Relay (Final)

Day 2
100 Backstroke (Prelims)
100 Backstroke (Semifinals)

Day 3
200 Freestyle (Prelims)
200 Freestyle (Semifinals)
100 Backstroke (Final)

Day 4
200 Freestyle (Final)

Day 5
100 Freestyle (Prelims)
100 Freestyle (Semifinals)
800 Freestyle Relay (Final)

Day 6
200 Backstroke (Prelims)
200 Backstroke (Semifinals)
100 Freestyle (Final)

Day 7
200 Backstroke (Final)

Day 8
400 Medley Relay (Final)

Working on doubles and triples during the past year with coach Todd Schmitz was designed to have Franklin ready to handle a potential workload of 15 races. She clearly managed her program well at the Olympic Trials, which can only be taken as a boost to her confidence. The key will be transferring that momentum to London.

“I'm so happy with my 200 back,” she said. “It always hurts at the end, but if it doesn't, you're not doing it right. This week went as well as could be expected. To have seven events is overwhelming and exciting at the same time. We have three weeks to get some more work done.”

**How good is Ryan Lochte? Despite just missing a berth on the Olympic Team in the 100 butterfly following a third-place finish, his time of 51.65 is the fourth-fastest performance in the world this year. That's an unbelievable achievement for a guy who is better in four or five other events. The only thing that kept Lochte out of the event in London was Michael Phelps going 51.14 and Tyler McGill touching the wall in 51.32.

**An argument can be made that the gutsiest effort of the meet was delivered in the 800 freestyle when Katie Ledecky, the rising teenage star, attacked the race from the outset and prevailed in 8:19.78, the second-fastest time in the world this year. Kate Ziegler earned her second Olympic ticket by finishing second in 8:21.87.

A 15-year-old who has been rapidly improving, Ledecky experienced heartbreak in the 400 freestyle when she finished in third place, behind Allison Schmitt and Chloe Sutton. This time, she made sure there wouldn't be a repeat performance. By going out as hard as she did, Ledecky risked a tough and painful finish, but instead managed to stay strong throughout the 16 laps.

“I just went for it and tried to hold on,” Ledecky said. “I'm so excited to get the chance to represent the USA. I don't think I was supposed to go out that fast, but I trusted my coach (Yuri Suguiyama) and my training. I had confidence I was going to be able to hold on.”

**The lurking-in-the-wings approach is something Cullen Jones should trademark. Two days after rallying to take the second position in the 100 freestyle from an outside lane, Jones pulled off the feat in the 50 freestyle, taking top honors out of Lane Two. Off the blocks like a lightning bolt, Jones powered to the wall in 21.59, the second-fastest time in the world this year.

Jones' presence on the Olympic Team is somewhat of a surprise, considering he hasn't exactly been lighting it up the past few years. However, no one can doubt his ability to rise to the occasion and deliver under pressure. He did it twice this week, a credit to his training and preparation under coach Dave Marsh.

Overshadowed in Jones' triumph was the performance of Anthony Ervin, whose comeback came full circle when he placed second in 21.60, the third-fastest time in the world. Ervin became an Olympian again, 12 years after his first trip produced a gold-medal tie in the 50 free with American teammate Gary Hall Jr.

The 31-year-old Ervin joined Brendan Hansen, a 30-year-old, in completing a successful comeback and earning a bid to London. Before returning to the sport last year, Ervin had been away from competition for a decade. But thanks to his pure sprinting skill, Ervin rekindled his past excellence and will have another Olympic opportunity.

**Question of the Night: Tonight we go with a multi-part question. What has been the most positive development for the United States at the Olympic Trials? What has been the biggest disappointment?

Follow John Lohn on Twitter: @JohnLohn

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