In the span of not quite 15 minutes, 17-year-old Missy Franklin swam in the women’s qualifying 200 meter freestyle, then hopped back in the pool to win the gold in the women’s 100 meter backstroke.
Her toughest opponent, Australian Emily Seebohm, went into the race having broken the Olympic record in the preliminaries on Sunday with 58.23. She had also rested all day. Franklin trailed Seebohm for most of the race until the end, when she surged passed her and won, with an ending time of 58.33.
Afterward, Michael Phelps went to the pool deck to look for her and gave her a high-five. He told her, “I can’t believe you just did that!” Phelps, who won eight gold metals in Beijing in 2008, has never had less than a 30 minute break between events.
According to the Washington Post, Phelps was a little skeptical of Franklin’s exuberance, saying she was, “just bouncing off the walls,” at a media day recently. He said he was concerned that she might expend too much energy and not conserve it for the pool. “If Missy can control her emotional energy, she’ll be fine.”
It is common knowledge that competing is in large part a mental game, and Franklin’s attitude in approaching the Olympic games as something to be enjoyed instead of a an austere venture might just be her secret weapon.
She told the Washington Post, “I ran right into the ready room, and it was fun!”
“Missy showed a lot tonight,” Phelps said later. “She’s tough. She’s obviously a force to be reckoned with.”
Franklin, who measures 6-feet-1, has a body built for swimming. Two professors who study the biomechanics of swimming said that if you could build a swimmer from scratch, she would look like Missy Franklin.
Franklin, who has a 6-feet-4 wingspan and a size 13 shoe, is well-aware of her physical advantage. My “physique is definitely so helpful,” Franklin said. “My feet – my parents always say – are like my built-in flippers…I definitely don’t think I would be where I am in swimming without the body I have.”
But what good is the ideal physical body without the indomitable spirit behind it? Bob Bowman, Phelps’s coach, has observed Franklin and worked with her during swim training camps and trips, and gushes about her fearlessness and competitive spirit.
Last week she said in an interview, “I know it’s going to be tough, but like Michael (Phelps) said, it’s all mental and I think I’m prepared to do it.”
Missy Franklin: ‘I feel like a dolphin’
Olympic hopeful swimmer Missy Franklin, 16, discusses her unique body and how it helps her excel in the pool while preparing for London in 2012.