US swimming sensation Missy Franklin is embracing her historic Olympic debut as only a teenager can.
“You just said I’m an Olympian — Oh my gosh!” the 17-year-old from Colorado blurted when asked how it felt to make the team at the US trials.
By the time the punishing eight-day selection meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, was over, Franklin was booked for four individual events and three relays, a program that could make her the first US woman to swim seven events at one Olympics.
Franklin, who as recently as March was wondering where to find a prom dress suitable for the 1.85m frame so perfectly suited to swimming, will now find herself the focus of US television coverage of the Games with her multiple medal bid sure to draw comparisons to illustrious team-mate Michael Phelps.
Far from daunted, Franklin is energized by the challenge.
“I am the luckiest girl in the world,” she said. “I learned that if I just keep a positive mental attitude that I can go out there and do whatever I hope I can do.”
“It’s all mental in getting out there, and having confidence in myself, and having strength and knowing I can do it,” she said.
Franklin won the 100m and 200m backstroke at the US trials and finished second in the 100m and 200m freestyle.
She now tops the world rankings in both backstroke events, but despite the intense spotlight, she will be under in London, she insisted she will not fall prey to the pressure that has undone young Olympic hopefuls before her.
“Support is different than pressure, and I feel like I have support coming from so many different angles,” Franklin said.
“This was the pressure meet,” she said of the US trials. “You have to make the team before you can go to the Olympics. So I’ve done that. I’m going to have fun.”
While Franklin will be making her Olympic debut, her international potential was on display last year at the World Championships in Shanghai, where her five medals included three golds.
She followed that up with a short-course world record in the 200m backstroke at a World Cup meeting in Germany in October.
In London, she will be able to rely on the guidance of her coach Todd Schmitz, who was added to USA Swimming’s coaching staff as an assistant at the conclusion of the trials.
“I’m comfortable if they’re comfortable,” US women’s head coach Teri McKeever said. “I’m just continually more and more impressed with her. She’s 17 years old, but she’s a professional.”
In fact, Franklin is not a professional. She calls her mom her agent and she still extols the joys of swimming with her high-school teammates.
She has opted against turning pro so that she can eventually swim for a university team, but US swimming officials are not worried that she will be overwhelmed by the sport’s biggest stage.
“You can look at it from the standpoint of: ‘Is the pressure going to be too much?’ or ‘Is she going to handle it?’ I’d bet on her handling it,” said national team director Frank Busch, pointing to Franklin’s experience in Shanghai last year.
“She knows a little more than we give her credit for,” Busch said. “I think she’s been around the block at a young age.”
Maybe so, but US teammate Elizabeth Beisel said Franklin’s bubbly personality is genuine — and helps balance her competitive drive.
Beisel said the effervescence is apparent even in the ready room before races, more usually known for their atmosphere of tense anticipation.