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.

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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.

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With A Welcome Push From A Rival, Ledecky Speeds To Another Olympic Berth

Expect this to be a familiar sight:  Katie Ledecky in a victory ceremony at 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha.  This one was for the 400 freestyle.  

Expect this to be a familiar sight:  Katie Ledecky in a victory ceremony at 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha.  This one was for the 400 freestyle.  

OMAHA, Neb. - The race was 400 meters, but it seemed effectively over after the first 25. It wasn’t much longer before the public address announcer at CenturyLink Center intoned, “It’s Katie Ledecky against the clock.”

That would be the case, as it is in most of Ledecky’s races of 400 meters and longer, where she usually is competing only against herself.

But it turned out that this U.S. Olympic Team Trials race Monday night wasn’t over, even if Ledecky never was in real danger of losing. As she fell off her stunning pace for the first half of the race, it allowed Leah Smith to create some suspense with the best swim of her career.

“The last 150 meters, I kept telling myself, ‘Rio, Rio, Rio,’” Ledecky said, knowing she needed to touch the wall first to guarantee getting there, even if the top two in every event are virtually certain to go.

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