Missy Franklin won four golds and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics as a sociable, well-spoken 17-year-old. After the 2015 World Championships her gold medal total stood at an illustrious 11, the most of any U.S. woman. But the Rio Olympics have been a sophomore slump, to say the least. She raced in three events, failing to make the final in any of them.
It really began at Trials: She didn’t qualify to defend her 100m backstroke gold from London.
To get on the team in at least a relay, she needed to finish in the top-six of the 200m freestyle. She finished second with what was termed a “gutsy” swim. It gave her an individual berth to the Games and rejuvenated her energy to finish second to Maya DiRado to earn a spot in the 200m backstroke in Rio.
“It might be really nice to go to an Olympics and really enjoy the experience instead of swimming so much,” she said at the time.
She did get to cheer for her teammates, and represented herself with enormous courage and poise. She still participated in team activities – like the now-famous carpool karaoke.
She raced to a 13th place overall finish in the 200m freestyle, a race she was 0.01 seconds off the podium from in London. She said soon after she was excited to cheer on teammate Katie Ledecky, who went on to win the gold medal – the most difficult event in Ledecky’s lineup.
She participated in the 4x200m freestyle relay qualifying heat, but was not selected for the final lineup. However, she was still eligible to earn the nighttime squad’s gold medal. She won’t leave Rio empty-handed.
Then, in the last event in her lineup, the 200m backstroke, she did not advance from the semifinals into the final. She finished 14th place. At the 2012 Games, she set the world record en route to winning the gold medal.
She obliged reporters each time she exited the pool and was commended as a class act.
The mystery of what happened to Franklin still remains, but with her effervescent personality, it’s certain that she has longevity in the sport. The bubbles that make her personality sparkle won’t be popped any time soon, it seems.