Cal legend Natalie Coughlin came up short again Wednesday night at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Neb.
The 29-year-old finished third in the 100-meter backstroke — her signature event — missing a ticket to the London Games by one spot.
Making it a harder swallow still, 17-year-old Missy Franklin won the event in 58.85 seconds — breaking Coughlin’s American and U.S. trials records in the process. Rachel Bootsma, an 18-year-old who will attend Cal beginning next fall, was second in 59.49.
Coughlin, who was seventh in the 100 butterfly final the night before, touched third in this one in 1:00.06 — more than a second slower than she swam four years ago at Beijing, where she defended her Olympic gold medal in the event.
Franklin said she hopes Coughlin still finds her way onto the U.S. team.
“She is my biggest role model. She has accomplished so much,” Franklin told NBC. “She still has so many more shots to make the team. I hope she does because I really would love to be on the team with her.”
Coughlin swim in preliminary heats of the 100 freestyle — her final event — on Friday morning.
Ex-Cal swimmer Jessica Hardy also missed an Olympic bid by one spot, finishing third in the 100 breast in 1:06.53 — a half-second shy of a trip to London.
The news was better for Cal sophomore-to-be Caitlin Leverenz, who had the fastest semifinal time in the 200 individual medley at 2:10.51. The final is Thursday. On Monday, Leverenz earned a London Olympics bid with a runnerup performance in the 400 IM final.
Dana Vollmer, another ex-Cal star, qualified third into Thursday’s final of the 200 free in 1:57.81.
Tom Shields, star of Cal’s NCAA men’s championship team, had the ninth best time in the semifinals of the 200 butterfly, missing a spot in the final by one place. He swam 1:58.75.