10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olympic Swimmer Missy Franklin
Many of the 49 men and women who make up this year’s US swimming squad — like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Jessica Hardy and Rebecca Soni — have years of experience. But fresh-faced Missy Franklin is a relative newcomer to the sport.
And yet, expectations are high for her to bring back gold as she competes in a record number of events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
As a way to familiarize yourself with Franklin, check out 10 things you may not have known about this rookie below.
FAST FACTS ABOUT MISSY FRANKLIN
Franklin was born May 10, 1995 in Pasadena, California, and currently lives in Colorado. She weighs 165 pounds and towers over most other female swimmers at six feet, one-and-a-half inches tall.
SHE’S STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL
Given the massive hype surrounding her, it’s easy to forget that Franklin is still a teenager. She recently graduated as a junior from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO, and will be a senior in the fall. In many ways, Franklin’s a typical 17-year-old who listens to Justin Bieber, loves ‘The Sound of Music,’ travels with a teddy bear in her backpack and is a self-proclaimed “goofball.”
And, like most kids, she looks for comfort from her parents when she’s had a bad day. In one publicized incident, Franklin showed up at her parents’ hotel room because she needed to cuddle after a particularly grueling time at the Indianapolis Gran Prix this past March. Aww!
“It’s true,” said Franklin. “I walked right into that room and needed a cuddle. Everybody needs a good cuddle once in a while, right? Who doesn’t like a hug?”
SHE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE
When she competed at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, Franklin was simply a promising young swimmer who had only qualified for only one event, the 200-meter backstroke. Things were about to quickly change for her, however.
Franklin went on to win the 200-meter, setting a US record time in the process, and won a bronze in the 50-meter backstroke when she swam for a teammate who dropped out. In addition, she won three more medals — two gold and a silver — in swimming relays. Not bad for a newbie.
SHE DOMINATED AT THE OLYMPIC TRIALS
Franklin’s performance at the US Olympic trials wasn’t just incredible — it was record-setting. She qualified for seven events in London, more so than any other woman in US history. She’ll swim the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes, the 100- and 200- freestyles and all three relay races.
No American woman has ever won more than five medals in one Olympics, but Franklin has a real chance to do exactly that. Next to Phelps, she represents the US’ best medal hope at the games.
“When I think of my biggest dream, it would be competing in the Olympics in as many events as I possibly can,” she said, “and I think I achieved that this week, so accomplishing that biggest dream at this age is so exciting, and I couldn’t be happier.”
WE ALMOST LOST HER TO CANADA
Franklin’s Canadian parents were aware of the extraordinary pressure exerted on American swimmers. So, they reminded their daughter, who has dual citizenship, that she had to option of competing for Canada. But Franklin refused, citing her love for the US.
“I was born in the US. I grew up in the US. It’s my country. It’s the country that I’m so proud to represent, and when I was little, dreaming about going to the Olympics, it was always that American flag on the side of my cap. So I always knew that representing the US. was something that I wanted to do,” she said.
SHE DOESN’T FEEL THE PRESSURE
Despite the intense media scrutiny and the fact that Franklin’s been hailed as the next big in thing in swimming, she remains grounded and doesn’t feel the pressure. On ‘Today,’ Matt Lauer pointed out that analysts have predicted she’ll be the breakout star of the games, but Franklin played the comments off. Her love of the sport, rather than a desire to win, is motivating her, she said.
“I love what they’re saying. I appreciate it,” she said. “I love what I do and I have fun with it and that’s the most important part. And to be able to represent my country at an Olympics would be the most incredible honor.”
SHE REFUSES TO GO PRO
While other older athletes are eagerly snapping up big money deals, Franklin steadfastly maintains her status as an amateur athlete, turning down prize money totaling $130,000 and sponsorships in the six figures so she can compete in college. If she were to cash in now, the NCAA would consider her a professional who’s ineligible to complete at the collegiate level. And that’s not a trade-off Franklin is willing to make.
“Swimming in college is something that I’ve always dreamed about and just hearing about the college experience and seeing what it’s done for athletes, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and something that I’m so looking forward to,” she said. “I want to be able to enjoy that experience.”
SHE MANAGES TO BALANCE SCHOOL AND SPORTS
Somehow, Franklin manages to excel academically in high school — she has a 4.2 GPA — while simultaneously training and competing as a swimmer. It hasn’t been easy to balance the two, she said, but a focus on education and support from her parents have made it possible.
“It’s definitely difficult … but it’s something you have to learn to do. Education is very, very important to me. And my parents are always there to help me, even on those days when I really just want to come home from practice and go to bed. They’re there to remind me that I have homework to do and I have to get it done. Or I have a test the next day that I have to study for,” she said.
SHE WAS BORN TO SWIM
Like Phelps, Franklin has a body that’s ideally suited for record speeds in the water. In addition to her height, Franklin has a span of six feet, four inches — two-and-a-half inches more than her height — and hands that run eight-and-a-half inches from her wrist to her middle finger. She also has gigantic size 13 feet, which her father says act like “built-in flippers.”
HER SCHOOL GAVE HER A SURPRISE SEND-OFF
During a traditional senior commencement event in May, Franklin’s school surprised her with an Olympic send-off, complete with a large banner that read “Good Luck Missy” and a visit from Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker.
The event ended with a dance party and Franklin, ever full of youthful enthusiasm, did “The Worm” on the gymnasium floor. Apparently, Franklin is known for busting out gangly dance moves. “And then I just see her and I’m, like, she would do that,” laughed a friend.