Olympic fire still burns for Fantastic Missy Franklin
A 17-year-old star of London 2012, where she collected four gold medals, Missy Franklin – who also has a record-breaking 11 world championship golds – is looking to keep the good times rolling in Rio this summer.
As is now customary for every major swimming final, the big screen at London’s Aquatics Centre showed a moving yellow line as the competitors in the women’s 200m backstroke final at the 2012 Games made their way up and down the pool.
That particular line represented the world record of 2:04.81, set by Zimbabwe’s reigning double Olympic champion Kristy Coventry at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, and one swimmer would outpace it from start to finish: a 17-year-old American starlet by the name of Missy Franklin.
Already the proud owner of two Olympic golds at London 2012, having earlier won the 100m backstroke and the 4x200m freestyle relay with Dana Vollmer, Shannon Vreeland and Allison Schmid, Franklin eventually stopped the clock at 2:04.06, smashing Coventry’s mark, with the Zimbabwean finishing out of the medals in fourth, behind Russia’s Anastasia Zuyeva and the USA’s Elizabeth Beisel.For me the most emotional aspect of the Olympics is being a part of a team and seeing your team-mates do so well.Missy Franklin USA
A day after sealing her individual backstroke double, Franklin swam the same style in the opening leg of the 4x100m medley relay final, setting a US quartet also featuring Rebecca Soni (breaststroke), Dana Vollmer (butterfly) and Allison Schmitt (freestyle) on the way to gold and a new world record of 3:52.05.
The most successful female swimmer at London 2012 with a total of five medals in all, Franklin was eclipsed in the pool only by her compatriot Michael Phelps, whose six-medal haul also included four golds.
“And it’s so inspiring and I just get so excited for them and it makes me want to do the same thing. And that’s normally what gets me most emotional, as it’s not just my team-mates that are winning, but my best friends.”
Breaking the mould
Standing 1.88m tall and born, in the words of her father Dick, “with built-in flippers in her feet”, the ever-smiling Franklin burst on to the scene as a 13-year-old at the Beijing 2008 US Olympic Team Trials – Swimming, held in Omaha. Though she failed to achieve qualification on that occasion, she had marked herself down as one to watch for the future.
Her maiden appearance at a major international meet came at the 2011 Worlds in Shanghai (CHN), where she won her first 200m backstroke title and contributed to the USA’s 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay wins.
Fresh from her London exploits, Franklin then enjoyed a memorable few days at the 2013 Worlds in Barcelona, completing another 100m/200m backstroke double, winning the 200m freestyle, and collecting three more golds in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays and the 4x100m medley relay.
A further two world titles came her way at Kazan 2015, in the 4x200m freestyle and the 4x100m mixed freestyle, taking her total FINA World Championship haul of gold medals to a record-breaking 11.
Now preparing to book her place at Rio 2016 at the US Trials, to be held in Omaha on 26 June–3 July, Franklin, speaking in early May, expressed her excitement at the possibility of returning the Games: “My first Olympic experience was so amazing and I learned so much throughout the whole process, and the fact that I have an opportunity to represent my country at a second Olympic Games is such a dream come true.”
Stressing the need to keep things in perspective, she added: “Yes, it’s the Olympics. But it’s also just another swim meet. The pool is the same length. The lanes are the same width. It’s just the same thing you’ve done a hundred times over and over again.
“Even though I had that experience in London, Rio is going to come with its own quirks, with its own challenges, and I’m going to have to adapt to those. And that’s just what you have to prepare for: just learning how to adapt and be the best in any situation.”
Discussing her preparations, she said: “I feel really, really good. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked before and I’m putting every ounce of my heart and soul into practice every single day. And it’s an incredible feeling to dedicate myself so much to something. And I know that by the time I get to Rio, I’ll have done everything I can.”