The pressure is on Missy Franklin, but you would never know looking at her. The 17-year-old phenom has been anointed the next big star in swimming and could be on her way to a record-setting performance at the London Olympics.
The pressure is on Missy Franklin, but you would never know looking at her.
The 17-year-old phenom has been anointed the next big star in swimming and could be on her way to a record-setting performance at the London Olympics.
But Franklin’s bubbly personality and constant smiles have deflected the pressure that could have threatened to sink her chances of making the Olympic team at last month’s U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. Instead, the teen enjoyed herself and qualified for the Olympics in a record seven events.
“The whole week (went) really well,” Franklin said. “I can’t believe I have seven events. It’s so overwhelming and so exciting at the same time, and I’m going to focus on the small things and hopefully be better in London.”
Franklin dominated the backstroke at the trials, winning the 100-meter backstroke in an American-record 58.85 seconds and the 200-meter backstroke in 2:06.12 — slightly off her American-record time of 2:05.1.
Those performances were expected, but Franklin exceeded expectations by finishing second in the 100 at 54.15 and 200 freestyles at 1:56.79. Those events also put her on the 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams, while taking the top backstroke spots put her in the 400 medley relay.
“I think she’s proven that she can handle the highest pressure with her performance,” U.S. Women’s Swim coach Teri McKeever said. “I’m just continually more and more impressed with her. She’s 17 years old, but she’s a professional and handled this meet like a seasoned professional, and she’s going to be able to do it.”
Natalie Coughlin earned six medals in Beijing in 2008, the most ever by a female in a single games. Franklin looks poised to at least match it.
Right now, Franklin is just happy Coughlin made the team. The 11-time Olympic medalist had a tough trials and made the team just as a member of the 400 freestyle relay.
“Natalie means the world to me,” Franklin said. “ I have learned so much from her, and I plan to learn so much from her. She has made such an incredible name for herself, and to be part of it and watch her while she is doing incredible things is amazing. Hopefully, I can take all the things that she has taught me and continue on after she is retired, or whatever it is she plans to do.”
Franklin also is close with Kara Lynn Joyce from their training together.
“I am thrilled to experience this with Missy,” Joyce said. “It is her first Olympics. I cried like a baby when she made it. She cried when I made it. She is like a little sister to me. I am so excited to see what she can do.”
But Franklin’s dream so far has been just to make the Olympic team. She was beside herself just hearing that she was an Olympian, let alone in seven events.
“I can’t even — you just said I’m an Olympian, oh my gosh! I can’t believe I’m an Olympian,” she said. “It seems unreal, but I’ve dreamed about it for so long and the fact that I’m here, and it’s happening right now, it feels like a dream.”
Contact Dan D’Addona at email@example.com or (616) 546-4276. Follow him on Twitter at @DanDAddona.