Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Olympics: Teenager’s Rise Comes to Light In London

The reality was, all along, Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old American swimmer, was fitted to take part in the 2012 London Olympics. The actuality was, during the 2012 U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., she was equipped to compete in the summer games and unsurprisingly became the first American woman to qualify for seven events. It’s not surprising she arrived at such a young age, winning five medals, three of them gold, in her first world championships last year.

Though she was raised in Denver, Colorado and represents the U.S. women’s swim team for one of the most exhilarating stories, both of her parents were born in Canada, which she could have represented our neighbor’s north of the border. A gifted swimmer, Franklin is a teenage athlete whose love for water is what shaped her into being crisp and the most decorated female Olympian of all-time, making the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes and is a favorite to win. With a heavy heart, reflecting on the loss of 12 victims while sending her prayers to the other 58 who were injured in the mass theater shooting in Aurora, she is embracing her lifelong dream to swim in the Olympics.
It’s not every day that you hear a story about a teenager, as astonishing as Franklin, a world-class athlete who is on the quest to attain gold medals and leave London in tremendous happiness. She is thrilled to be swimming in the Olympics in the United Kingdom, a place she can leave behind countless memories. There’s competitiveness in her. There’s determination and self-discipline in her. There’s continuity and mental toughness in her.

And that she is considered to accumulate medals, because she’s won three gold, a silver and a bronze at last year’s world’s championship and currently is the world-record holder in the 200m backstroke, there’s no denying the promising swimmer who has already showed the world she can swim. Franklin, ladies and gentlemen, is making her Olympic debut in London this week, and after watching her in the trials, she moves through water like a fish. Now 17, Franklin achieved each of her feats at the age 16, and impressed the nation.

It was her Sweet 16.

Standing 6 feet 1, weighing almost 170 pounds, with her extraordinary wingspan and versatility to glide through water, Franklin is the next big star in the pool for USA Swimming, a phenom who is the female version of Michael Phelps. It’s clear that she’s definitely a stud and, in water, she’s larger than life, a soon-to-be American icon and even a beauty queen in the next few years.
My theory, in retrospect, is she will be around for decades and stand as an American symbol in the Olympic games with Phelps leaning toward retirement after London. It sounds as if swimming has its next brightest athlete for an eventual post-Phelps era — and rightfully so — Franklin is equivalent to the 14-time gold medalist after entering in five events this week, which includes the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles, along with the 100 and 200 backstrokes.

In today’s swimming, she may have channeled her inner Phelps, and then hopefully shatter records over the years. She is, however, a kid at heart, a typical teenage girl and carries a teddy bear in her backpack, as she jumps into the pool and makes a splash. It’s inevitable to ignore Franklin, even if it is her first Olympic games, even if this is a time she may be overly excited and nervous. Franklin, in this case, could suddenly have a nice cachet if she produces for the USA women’s swim team. In any event, she will have her work cut out for her, especially against 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin. They are scheduled to meet in a captivating swim race for the 100 backstrokes event and then again for the 100 freestyle, where Franklin is seeded first and Coughlin second.

Long before Franklin came along, she was the dominant one of H2O, but now there’s a new girl in the water. It’s kind of crazy how we just forgot about Coughlin when she clinched a top seed with a time of 59.12 seconds, while Franklin finished just short of first with a time of 59.18 seconds. The U.S. women’s swim team, and there’s no doubt about it, is full of talented and fast swimmers, but nobody can match the teenager’s speed or even the 29-year-old veteran. It will and should be a scintillating event between these two incredible swimmers, an opportunity for Franklin to try and beat her role model and a chance for the world to take notice of the teenybopper who can appear on the popular Seventeen Magazine. But even better, if she brings home gold medals and earns a fair share of recognition, then she can feature on the front cover of Sports Illustrated, where most champs appear after accomplishing marvelous triumph.

She can rip through water, faster than lightning, and float beautifully under water once the electronic beep sounds for the race to begin. She is relentlessly fast in the pool, which is why she has a cool nickname and also is referred to as “Missy the Missile.” Years ago, when she was 13-years-old, Franklin wasn’t nearly as good and famous as she is today. In fact, dating back to four years ago in Omaha, she finished 37th in the 100 free but took it as motivation and had the audacity to get better. The hard work and exhausting competitions for long days, long weeks and long months paid off, turning her into a budding Olympian, trained and well-suited to be our next compelling star of H2O when Phelps decides to take backstrokes home and change from his Speedos to his street clothes.

For her, it’s really about turning into a faster swimmer and growing up to be stronger. For her, it’s really about staying in condition and withstanding rigorous training. At this point of her life, Franklin is not a party animal and attending parties is her least concern, with her eyes on the prize in these summer games. The tension and pressure is quite much for a teenager to handle, but she is more focus than ever before, more serious than before and more prepared than before. While preparing for stiff competitions, which could be her real challenge, Franklin is having fun as well, smiling and laughing with her family standing by her to root on their girl in London. Folks are used to her laughing, giggling and being shy in front of cameras.

But when she’s in the water, she’s for real. Beside Franklin on the pool deck is her 33-year-old coach Todd Schmitz, a man who is a head coach of a youth club and has credentials to mold and breed his athlete. His work ethic and enthusiasm for working with Franklin has shaped her into a pedigreed swimming star.

Her love for water began at age 6, when she won her first race, a 25-meter backstroke. As a little girl, since winning at such a young age, her grandmother would tell stories that her granddaughter would someday be an Olympian. And look at her… she’s a first-time Olympian. What’s more, Franklin is in position to become the wonderful face of swimming.