Gold Coast, Australia: World champion Missy Franklin failed to qualify for the 200-meter freestyle final after making a late decision to compete despite a sore back on the opening morning of the Pan Pacific championships.
A half-hour later, she was back in the pool and swam fast enough to advance in the 100-meter backstroke, an event she won at the London Olympics. She had to overcome nerves just to start her second race on Thursday, and later said she considered it a successful morning regardless of the mixed results.
Katie Ledecky led qualifiers in the 200 free in 1 minute. 56.45 seconds, with Australia's Melanie Schlanger second-fastest in 1:57. 29 and Shannon Vreeland in 1:57:40. Franklin had the fourth-quickest time across the five heats but was behind U.S. teammates Ledecky and Vreeland. At the Pan Pacs, predominantly featuring teams from Australia, Japan, Canada and the U.S., only the two fastest swimmers from each country make the A final.
Franklin, who won six gold medals at the world titles last year, had back spasms in training in Tuesday and was in doubt for the meet until she completed her warm up ahead of her two events in the first session.
"The scariest part for me was probably my starts, because my backstroke start was what set it off originally," she said. "I was a little worried - I hadn't done one since that incident. But I was able to get up and get out."
In the backstroke, Franklin was the fastest of the U.S. qualifiers in 1:00.60, finishing just behind Australian pair Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking.
In other events, Kosuke Hagino of Japan was fastest in the men's 200 free in 1:46.60, narrowly ahead of American Conor Dwyer, Australian pair Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Cameron McEvory and U.S. veteran Ryan Lochte, a five-time Olympic gold medalist.
Lochte said the windy outdoor conditions weren't really a factor on a bright morning, but he was glad to get his first race over and done with because it's always his worst of a meet.
Japan had four of the six fastest times in the men's 200 butterfly, with Daiya Seto qualifying first in 1:55.29, followed by Brazilian Leonardo De Deus, Masata Sakai and American Tyler Clary.
Americans went 1-2 in the 100 backstroke, with Matt Grevers setting a meet record in 52.91 seconds and Ryan Murphy finishing in 53.24.
Michael Phelps, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist who is competing in his first international championship since coming out of retirement, was due to start his program in the 100 freestyle on Friday.
The first of the finals will be over by then, with Franklin hoping her back holds up to add a Pan Pacific title to her Olympic and world championships in the 100 backstroke.
"There's definitely some discomfort still. But it's getting much, much better," she said, adding that she'd swim in the B Final of the 200 freestyle as well. "My coach and I decided I'm going to do both tonight. I figured, heck, why not? I'm just going to go for it."