IRVINE (California) • Five-gold Olympian Missy Franklin vowed to fight on in her bid to return to swimming's summit in time for the 2020 Tokyo Games after a setback at the US Championships on Thursday.
She followed up a disappointing 100m freestyle the day before by failing to reach the 200m free final.
The results mean she will miss out on the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo next month as well as next year's World Championships in South Korea, the most important international meets heading into Tokyo 2020.
"I'm pretty disappointed, I definitely wanted to be better," said Franklin, who was swimming just her fourth meet since double shoulder surgery in January 2017.
With backstroke, once one of her strengths, still causing her pain in her shoulders, she opted to swim only the two freestyle events at the championships in Irvine.
The 23-year-old finished 18th in the 200m free, clocking 1min 59.56sec.
The event was won by Katie Ledecky in 1:54.60 as she clocked the second-fastest time in the world this year - second only to her own 1:54.56 last month - to add the 200m title to the 800m free crown she claimed on Wednesday.
"I am learning a lot about patience throughout this," said Franklin, but her voice broke as she acknowledged her disappointment.
"It's tough. I've trained really, really hard the last seven months and was definitely hoping it would show up a little more. But it didn't.
"Long term it's two years (until the Olympics), that's what matters. So that's what we're going to keep fighting for and I'll just do my best until then."
She took the 2012 London Olympics by storm, winning four gold medals and following up the next year with six world titles in Barcelona. But at the 2016 Olympics, she failed to make an individual final, and her lone gold from Rio came in the 4x200m free relay, in which she did not swim the final.
Franklin was not the only American star struggling at the meet in California.
Reigning World Swimmer of the Year Caeleb Dressel, who bagged seven titles at last year's World Championships in Budapest, finished sixth in the 100m free on Wednesday and was second in the 50m butterfly on Thursday. The 21-year-old star has five other events to get off the mark.
Josh Prenot, a Rio silver medallist who failed to qualify for last year's World Championships, made a statement in the 200m breaststroke, winning in the year's best time of 2:07.28. Andrew Wilson was second in 2:08.71, edging out Will Licon by one-hundredth of a second.