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Missy Franklin a vastly improved swimmer

July 18, 2013
Regis Jesuit swimmer Missy Franklin, center, adjusts her goggles during a meet against Cherry Creek on Jan. 15. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Regis Jesuit swimmer Missy Franklin, center, adjusts her goggles during a meet against Cherry Creek on Jan. 15. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

It’s 6:30 a.m. and Missy Franklin is in the middle of swimming 4,700 meters in 90 minutes at Lowry LC Pool, a six-lane, Olympic-length pool with the rudimentary trappings associated with a military base. In six hours, she will be back again.

This has been Franklin’s life, adding a few other pools around town, since she was 7 years old. The number of swimmers she beat on her way to becoming the 2012 FINA swimmer of the year is a mere drop in the sea of nationally ranked girls who hung up the goggles before their first junior high dance.

For Franklin, 18, burnout is a foreign word; peaking is as distant a worry as social security. A year after winning four Olympic gold medals and a bronze medal at the London Games, Franklin heads into Sunday’s world championships in Barcelona, Spain, a vastly improved swimmer.

“I have such big goals and such big dreams and I’ve definitely touched on those, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be,” Franklin said. “Having that big of dreams helps you. With last year in London, I really realize what it takes to get there.”

It doesn’t always work that way. Her coach with the Colorado Stars, Todd Schmitz, has a dog-eared article headlined “The 10-and-Under Wonder.” It’s a study showing that less than 10 percent of age-group swimmers ranked in the top 10 at age 10 were ever ranked at age 18.

Fast fades don’t just happen at 10, either. Allison Schmitt won Olympic gold in the 200-meter freestyle, silver in the 400 freestyle and teamed with Franklin to win gold in the 400 freestyle relay and the 800 medley relay.

At the U.S. nationals in Indianapolis last month, Schmitt didn’t even make the world team.

“She worked so hard to get to that level and said, ‘OK, I did it,’ ” Schmitz said. “It’s an important lesson for Missy to learn at 18 years old. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how good you are. If you don’t continue to put in the work in this sport, somebody’s going to knock you off the pedestal.

“There’s always the next Missy Franklin out there somewhere training hard.”

And, yes, Franklin can improve. People forget she didn’t medal in London in the 100 and 200 freestyle events. She missed a bronze medal in the 200 by 0.01 and finished fifth in the 100.

But in Indianapolis, her freestyle went from promising to medal favorite. She won the 100 (53.43) and 200 (1:55.56) in times that bettered what she did in London (53.64 and 1:55.82).

“Her mind-set was different this year,” Schmitz said. “Last year going into the Olympics, she kind of told herself she’d been training more backstroke. Not necessarily. I looked at it. We did almost half and half, the same as this year. But I realized last year she didn’t have the confidence in freestyle, so this year I made sure I kept talking about freestyle.”

That stroke has now almost caught up with her backstroke, where she’s the world-record holder in the 200 and American-record holder in the 100.

Asked about her new confidence level in freestyle, she said: “Huge. Through all the Grand Prix and where my times were at Indy, I’m very, very confident in my freestyles. I was happy with my freestyles in London, but I definitely want to make them better.

“I really feel like we’re on that road right now to Barcelona.”

Expect another major medal haul. Franklin is entered in eight events, including five individual. How many will produce gold is the only question. She’s ranked first in the world in both backstrokes and second in the 100 free behind Cate Campbell, a member of Australia’s Olympic gold medal-winning 4×100 freestyle relay team in London.

Franklin is ranked second in the 200 freestyle behind France’s Camille Muffat, the silver medalist in London and gold medalist in the 400 freestyle. Swimming World magazine picked Australia to beat the U.S. in the two freestyle relays.

Franklin also is entered in the 50 backstroke, where she made the team in her only race of the year.

The Barcelona schedule, which begins Sunday with the 400 freestyle relay, sets up perfectly. The only night she swims three races is Aug. 1 — when she does the 100 freestyle semifinals, 50 backstroke final and the 4×200 freestyle relay final. Joining Franklin in the relay is Cherry Creek High School graduate Jordan Mattern, who swam for the Colorado Stars and just finished her sophomore year at Georgia.

“The best thing about it is Missy did the double in the Olympics 12 minutes apart,” Schmitz said. “In between the 50 back final and the 800 relay start is 25 minutes. In a perfect world, she anchors the relay. Then she’ll have almost 30 minutes, and it’s a 50 back.”

“It’s like a little baby warm-up,” Franklin said.

The difference this year? Unlike the London Games, where she burst onto sports’ mainstream, she is the face of international women’s swimming. She will have “USA” on her cap, but a target on her back.

“It was definitely different than trials meets I’ve been to before,” Franklin said of the U.S. nationals. “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a target, but it was different for me being on that higher end of that. It was fun because it’s like Allison Schmitt. You never really know where people are at, especially after the Olympics.”

Where missy ranks

50-meter backstroke

1. Yuanhui Fu, China, 27.22

2. Aya Terakawa, Japan, 27.51

3. Rachel Bootsma, U.S., 27.68

4. Xiang Liu, China, 27.76

5. Etiene Medeiros, Brazil, 27.88

9. Missy Franklin, U.S., 27.98

100 backstroke

1. Missy Franklin, U.S., 58.67

2. Aya Tarakawa, Japan, 58.84

3. Emily Seebohm, Australia, 59.17

4. Elizabeth Pelton, U.S., 59.27

5. Yuanhui Fu, China, 59.58

200 backstroke

1. Missy Franklin, U.S., 2:05.68

2. Elizabeth Pelton, U.S., 2:06.29

3. Belinda Hocking, Australia, 2:07.17

4. Elizabeth Beisel, U.S., 2:07.64

5. Meagen Nay, Australia, 2:07.96

100 freestyle

1. Cate Campbell, Australia, 52.83

2. Missy Franklin, U.S., 53.43

3. Camille Muffat, France, 53.51

4. Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, 53.66

5. Bronte Campbell, Australia, 53.72

200 freestyle

1. Camille Muffat, France, 1:55.48

2. Missy Franklin, U.S., 1:55.56

3. Bronte Barratt, Australia, 1:56.05

4. Federica Pellegrini, Italy, 1:56.51

5. Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, 1:56.55


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