Missy Franklin is the truth. If you haven’t been following the Olympic Swimming, you missed the best story of the Games so far, as the 17-year old Franklin did something last night that had never been done before: she won a gold medal less than 15 minutes after swimming her way into the final of another race. Like most elite swimmers, Franklin competes in multiple events, and last night she had the semi-finals of the 200-meter freestyle and then about 10 or so minutes later was right back in the pool for her first final in her Olympic career for the 100-meter women’s backstroke. Between her two races was the Gator Ryan Lochte’s race, where he finished fourth and allowed France’s Agnel to take gold for the second time in two nights, so that made Franklin’s amazing swim to gold that much more special from an American perspective.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, Franklin’s first race was the 200-meter freestyle. From Lane 5 in the second semi-final of the night she knew she needed to put up a great time, but also conserve energy for the more important race of her night. Franklin knew that she would have about 10 minutes between her two races, which is unique since even when Phelps and other swimmers had been involved in multiple races they had at least twenty minutes between heats, but that was not the case last night for Franklin. Franklin went out and finished in fourth place in her heat, and snuck in to the 200-meter final in 8th place at 1:57.57. She will race for that medal this afternoon.
After a quick cool down/warmup in the diving pool, which she got permission to use due to her back-to-back races, it was back to the starting line for Monday’s main event. Franklin, who already owned the American record for the 100-meter backstroke, found herself in the final for the event with Great Britain’s Gemma Spofforth, the world record holder in the event. Also in the event in the lane next to Franklin was Emily Seebohm, an Australian swimmer who set the Olympic record in the event during qualifying to make it into these Games.
Franklin got off to a slower start in this race, but thankfully for her, she is known for her closing speed anyway. The 100-meter races are two lengths of the pool, and Franklin would need all the closing speed in her body as she came back from a deficit after making the turn at the far end of the pool. Franklin swam a 29.5 second length to catch up to Seebohm and put up a 58.33, smashing her own American record and capturing gold. This was Franklin’s first individual Olympic race and already her second medal of the Olympics (she was a member of the 4x100m freestyle team that won bronze earlier in the Games).
There are two additional storylines I feel that are worth mentioning when it comes to Franklin’s historic race. First, is the tape delayed coverage of the Olympics by NBC. Because of the 5-hour time zone difference, NBC has decided to delay the airing of some of the more popular events until primetime across the United States. That’s all well and good since you can still stream the events live on NBCOlympics.com, but with Franklin’s race a Today Show promotional advertisement tipped off the results of her race. The commercial played a clip of Missy reuniting with her parents after winning her first gold medal, and was shown just minutes before NBC decided to air the race. NBC really dropped the ball with this commercial, as some people do try to stay off the internet, off their phones and social media, and away from any television channel that could potentially spoil the results of an event done hours earlier, and then a stupid commercial ruins that for them. NBC as a channel has been good about not spoiling the results during their live coverage of other events, and besides a slip on the nighttime news on the first day of the Games, the station has given spoiler alerts before showing any highlights. That is, up until this commercial.
Another, and perhaps more important, aspect of Missy Franklin’s race is her hometown: Aurora, Colorado. As you all know, Aurora has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately, with the midnight shootings by James Holmes during the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at an Aurora movie-theatre. Today, Holmes was charged with 24 murders and a total of 142 counts for his terrorist acts that night, and that tragedy shocked the city of 325,000 people. Now, I realize sports are way less important than the events that night, but I hope that Franklin’s race and her gold medal acted as a sort of distraction and brief moment of comfort for the victims of that tragedy and their families. Franklin is a beautiful, brilliant, fun, and humble athlete and is a great representative of that city, and I just hope that the people from the area could find a bit of solace watching her perform in the pool.
If there is anything that we can take from Missy Franklin it is just do what you love. At 17-years old Franklin has already turned down over $200,000 in endorsements and prize money so that she could continue to keep her amateur status and compete for high school team (she just finished her junior year, yikes) and then move on to swim for whatever college she decides to attend (Florida State’s interested, just saying). Franklin also had the opportunity to move someplace where swimming is a bigger deal than it is in Colorado; places such as California, Florida, or really anywhere where the ocean is there and the weather is perfect year-round, but Franklin decided to stay in her small town where all her friends, teammates, and family are. She said that she does because it makes her happy and just by watching her compete, you can tell how fulfilling her life is as she is always smiling.
Congratulations, Missy Franklin.