Monday, July 30, 2012

Missy Franklin, the Teenage Darling of America, Pockets Her 10k Gold

It’s obvious the popularity of Missy Franklin has grown in these Summer Games, particularly in America, which she is the new face of U.S. swimming. The masses are closely watching the next golden girl, the teenage queen of the pool who made a splash at her first Olympic games in London and relished the joy of chlorine-soaked fun.

If she likes, Franklin can pose in the latest issue of Cover Girl. If she likes, the 17-year-old American swimmer can wear the crown to be our next Miss America with her bright smile that defines her stature especially when she dives into the water for a race, confident she’d outdo anyone and come away victorious in the end. It’s time to bow to the queen of London, not Queen Elizabeth — mind you – but Franklin, an American athlete appreciated greatly ever since she qualified for an astonishing seven events in the 2012 Summer Games in London at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha in late June and early July.

It’s time we come to notice a teenager and give her the uttermost respect and idolize her, as she is one of the rising and young swimming stars to gain premature fame, like Michael Phelps at the Summer Olympics in Athens eight years ago. The irony of this story is that she became the first American woman ever to swim seven events at the London Games with a chance of competing against other world-class athletes and winning Olympic medals. She smiled, knowing her dream turned into reality, knowing she had just won her first ever gold medal. Melissa Jeanette Franklin lifted her head out of the water, tiny drops were still falling from her face, when she laughed and giggled to soak in a gratifying moment. A girl who stayed in the water growing up had emerged into an Olympic champion.

When she stepped out of the water, met by NBC’s Andrea Kramer for a post-race interview, Franklin was still wet from the pool and couldn’t stop smiling. Like a typical teenager, she was a kid again, a high-school senior who could have easily been mistaken for a young girl who was given her favorite toy for Christmas. Standing on the podium, as she bent her head over to receive the gold medal, as the national anthem was ringing out of the loudspeaker and as the American flag was rising above, Franklin turned on a big smile and tried to sing the Star Spangled Banner. She struggled to fight back tears of joy during a moment she was honored, and forgot the words of the national anthem, overjoyed and so ecstatic for what had just happened when she touched the wall after a dramatic finish in the women’s 100-meter backstroke Monday night in London.

In the water, standing 6 feet 1, Franklin swam with her arms stretched back in rotation, she flipped and pushed from off the wall and kicked her legs and feet harder than Australia’s Emily Seebohm. When Seebohm closed in on the gold medal, toward the end of the race that finished in a dramatic fashion, Franklin knifed her way through the pool and outmatched everybody as the rest of her opponents floated around stunned and helpless. So was Seebohm, who entered the competition as precisely the favorite, among all qualified swimmers. Just then, because she was a veteran in her second Olympics and posted the fastest time in qualifying, it was understandable to assume that Seebohm would climb out of the water a winner. But not so fast — Franklin was here, too. She was in another lane, and had clearly been ignored entering the women’s 100-meter backstroke.

The notion, one expected, was that Franklin would be favored to dominate the backstroke, which is her specialty as a swimmer, and indeed she darted from second place at the turn and bustled past Seebohm in the final 50. This, of course, marked an emotional night after Franklin’s backstroke time of 58.33 seconds was half-a-second faster than her American record a month ago. The teen sensation touched the wall first, then Seebohm, who nearly arched toward the finish before everyone else, won the silver in 58.68 and then Japan’s Aya Terakawa lucked out receiving the bronze with a time of 58.83.

Afterwards, Franklin looked up and noticed her name atop the board, and a giant video screen featured a live shot of her parents, D.A. and Dick, who watched nervously and proudly from their seats at London Aquatics Centre. It’s even more nice Franklin won her first Olympic gold medal in her first ever event with an exhausting six events left on such a hectic schedule – and among all other things, it happened in a race just 14 minutes after she was in the water qualifying for the 200-meter freestyle. As a way to celebrate, she smiled, slightly giggled and tears crawled down her rosy cheeks, a sentiment we know so well about a nice, friendly kid. It’s almost beside the point, but she’s a fan of pop star Justin Bieber and her favorite movie is “Sound of Music.” It’s almost beside the point, but she’s not even out of high school, she has no diploma and has the character of a four-year senior in college. Her swimming acumen is amazing. Her wingspan and torso is long. Her body is well built and fit perfectly for swimming.

Splendid. Remarkable. Unbelievable.

And so it was moments after her swim that Phelps was so amazed of her energy and solid swimming and said he’s never seen a turnaround shorter than 30 seconds, performing better than Ryan Lochte and him. Since her arrival, Franklin has fallen in love with these Games. The laughter and smiles are signs of a teenage girl having fun at these games, the sweetheart of American athletes, the darling everyone has a crush on in these summer games. Her longtime coach, Todd Schmitz, has helped developed one of the fastest and youngest swimmers in the land of the USA, if not the world after such a heartfelt victory.

For now, for all the exhilaration, she reminds us, as some Olympians always do, that memories are made and legends are born. That is the gist of the Olympics, always is, and Franklin will always be remembered for her magnificent victory to a gold medal in the women’s 100-meter backstroke. We’ll always remember the goofy teenager pulling her gold medal out of her pocket and raising it into the air flaunting the 10k gold. We’ll always remember the London Games.

We’ll always remember Missy.