Compared To Past, Rio May Seem Like Day At The Beach For Both Lochte, Franklin

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RIO DE JANEIRO – This is a city whose global renown owes to a feeling that life is a beach – a virtual mandate to let the good times roll on Ipanema and Copacabana. So maybe it’s fitting that the 2016 Olympic Games will seem like lazy days on the strand for Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte compared to their past experiences in the summer Games.

The irony is neither is likely to have days in the sun the way Franklin did in 2012, and Lochte did in both 2012 and 2008. 

This time around, they are Olympians, not stars, each swimming far fewer events than in the past, each likely to consider an individual event medal of any color as good as the golds they won four years ago in London.


Repetitive brilliance defines Katie Ledecky



It is repetition that defines Katie Ledecky. You see it when she stands on the starting block, waiting for the signals that begin a race, pushing and pulling on her swim cap several times, using her hands and elbows and the crook of her arm to fiddle with her goggles. It is why, for reasons she cannot remember, she claps her hands three times just before the beep to dive into the pool, a ritual that has always worked and therefore stands as its own reason.

There is comfort in doing things the same way. At critical moments, it removes the confusion of change. And yet, at the moment the world first saw the record-breaking swimming that would become the emblematic definition of Ledecky, it also saw a 15-year-old with the presence of mind to realize there was a time to let the ritual go.

It was just before the 800-meter freestyle final at the 2012 London Olympics. Ledecky could barely hear the starter given the noise from a crowd determined to will the Brit, Rebecca Adlington, to a second straight Olympic gold medal in the race. Ledecky worried about being late to take her mark if she clapped, worried that everyone else would leave her behind at the start. She was the youngest of 532 athletes on the U.S. team, in many eyes a very unexpected qualifier, so why wouldn't she feel a little uncertain?

She thought about the karmic consequences of breaking the routine and the value of playing it safe. Then she gave in to a bit of teenage angst.

"I was like, 'I don't want to embarrass myself and not go when everyone else does,'" she said.

A little more than eight minutes later, the crowd would do the clapping. Beating the field (including the favored Adlington, who finished third) by more than four seconds, Ledecky was Olympic champion. She also broke the U.S. record set 23 years earlier by Janet Evans, the four-time Olympic champion and multiple world-record setter who remains a standard against whom all women's distance swimmers are judged.

It was the beginning of the pattern with which Katie Ledecky has defined herself in a sport where doing something over and over again is necessary to succeed, where she has had one stunning swim after another. World record after world record, world title after world title.

For my whole long form profile of Katie on ESPN.COM, click here

In 30 minutes, signs of changing times for Ledecky, Franklin

OMAHA, Neb. - Missy Franklin finished swimming at the CenturyLink Center at 7:07 Saturday night. At 7:37, Katie Ledecky was in the water, taking over for good the pool that had belonged to Franklin four years ago.

In a sport ruled by times, 30 minutes provided a time passage through four years. The half-hour marked a transition from the era when Franklin was the leading figure in U.S. women’s swimming and its pre-Olympic designated star to the one when Ledecky is the leading figure in world women’s swimming and its pre-Olympic designated star.

Ledecky, 19, would cruise to victories in three freestyle races at these U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming, adding Saturday night’s win in the 800-meter freestyle to those in the 200 and 400.

Franklin, 21, had won two individual events and qualified for four in 2012. This time, she clawed her way on the team going to Rio by rallying for second-place finishes in the 200 backstroke and 200 freestyle.

She replaced dominance with desire, battling to reclaim part of what had seemed so easy to get the first time.




For Missy Franklin, A Struggle In Trying To Face The Big Picture

OMAHA, Neb. – For Missy Franklin, the difference in coming back to Omaha for another U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming is highly visible.

“I’m on the doors now, which is a pretty big deal,” she said before the meet began.

There are full-length, larger-than-life photos of her on doors leading into CenturyLink Center. They celebrate the 6-foot, 2-inch Franklin’s stature in the sport, the Olympian heights she reached through the portal of the 2012 trials.

Four years later, after having lost time to back problems yet bearing a bigger load of expectations, Franklin has the same effervescence but is a diminished swimmer. The door to another Olympics could shut in her face.