Missy Franklin was a 17-year-old high school senior when she became a star at the London Games. Now, she’s a 21-year-old pro who has returned home in an attempt to find herself before Rio.
The million-dollar smile and the girlish giggle remain the same, but things have changed for Franklin in four years.
“I definitely think I’ve grown up in a lot of ways, and I think I’m starting to become the woman that I want to be,” Franklin said. “But I think something I’ve always done really well is just be myself and be authentic.
“So even looking back four years ago, really not that much has changed. I’m still enthusiastic. I’m still optimistic. I’m still loving every second of this. I felt like that came off when I was 17, and I’m hoping it comes off again when I’m 21, because that’s all the same.”
I’m still enthusiastic. I’m still optimistic. I’m still loving every second of this.
Missy Franklin as she prepares for the Rio Olympics
Franklin won five medals, including four golds, at the 2012 Summer Olympics while setting a world record in the 200-meter backstroke. She earned a spot among the world’s top swimmers of all time, with expectations of more to come.
But Katie Ledecky, the world swimmer of the year the past three years, is the American female with her name in lights in Omaha, Neb. Franklin enters the U.S. Olympic trials almost as an afterthought, seeking a comeback of sorts.
Franklin hasn’t won much since 2013. She stands among the biggest disappointments from last year’s World Championships in Russia, finishing second in the 200 backstroke, third in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 100 back. Only two of Franklin’s five medals were gold.
China garnered 35 medals, including 15 golds, last summer, while the U.S. won 33 medals, including 13 golds.
At the 2012 London Games, Franklin won five medals, including four golds, and set a world record in the 200 backstroke.
“I was very focused going into that meet,” Franklin said. “I worked my butt off going into that meet, and it was just not where I wanted to be. So you take that in stride. There were some good things that came out of worlds last summer, and there were definitely some disappointments. But I was still incredibly focused going in, incredibly driven. Now, after that, I’m even more so.
“You really take those things, and you learn from it. You can’t focus too much on the past. You need to learn from it, but then you need to move on and focus on how to make yourself better for the future.”
After two years swimming for coach Teri McKeever at Cal, Franklin turned pro and returned to Colorado last summer to train with her former coach, Todd Schmitz. Franklin began her swimming career with Schmitz when she was only 5.
Katie Ledecky, the swimmer to watch in Omaha, Neb., won a gold medal in the 800 freestyle in the 2012 London Olympics.
Franklin kept her apartment in Berkeley and plans to return to finish her degree after the Olympics, Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro.
This temporary relocation is about going back to the future.
“I found that the best decision for me was going to be to go back to Todd for the year in training for 2016,” Franklin said. “While it’s been so hard being away from school and being away from my girls, I’ve really been able to have that support of my family throughout my whole process, which was great and being back with Todd.
“It’s very different being back with him as … a 21-year-old as opposed to a 17-year-old, and it’s much more of a collaboration and a partnership now.”
U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials
CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.