This big Missy bound for fame

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2012 - 10:28 PM

Missy Franklin is more than happy to confront lofty expectations being set for her at London Games.

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OMAHA - Hearing the words for the first time seemed to take Missy Franklin aback.

"You just said I'm an Olympian!'' she exclaimed as she was introduced to the media after winning the 100-meter backstroke on Wednesday at the U.S. Olympic trials. "Oh, my gosh!''

Franklin, 17, seemed no less overcome Thursday when she made the Olympic team in a second event, the 200 freestyle. Bubbly and charming, the teen being heralded as the female Michael Phelps finished second to Allison Schmitt a day after setting a U.S. record in the 100 back. That only heightened the already lofty expectations she is shouldering for the London Olympics, a year removed from a five-medal performance at the 2011 world championships.

With her 6-1 frame and size 13 feet, Franklin cuts through the water like a torpedo. But the serious business of Olympic swimming has not spoiled a teen who finds the happy in everything. With three more events yet to swim at CenturyLink Center, Franklin continues to smile her way through the trials, embracing stardom without allowing it to alter her.

"This means the world to me,'' said Franklin, who is entered in the 50 and 100 freestyles and the 200 backstroke later this week. "Every time I swim, I make sure I'm remembering that 5-year-old on her summer club swim team that loved going out there and being with her friends and playing cards in the tent before we swam. I'm swimming for that girl, the one who just loves swimming with all her heart.''

Franklin, of Aurora, Colo., is friends with Rachel Bootsma of Eden Prairie, who finished second in Wednesday's 100 back to earn a spot on the Olympic team. With their performances in that event, the two pals stamped themselves as medal contenders in London.

Franklin's time in the final -- 58.85, including a blazing finish that vaulted her from fourth to first -- is the fastest in the world this year. Bootsma swam a 59.49 in the final and a career-best 59.10 in the semifinals. Her time in the semis is fourth fastest in the world in 2012.

Bootsma is scheduled to compete in the 100 freestyle Friday and the 50 freestyle Sunday before she briefly returns home. More congratulations will await her there, including an invitation from the Twins to throw out a first pitch at Target Field.

Her work begins anew on July 7. In two pre-Olympic training camps, Bootsma, Franklin and their teammates will prepare to peak again for the Olympics and the international competition they will face.

Anastasia Zueva of Russia, a 2008 Olympian, swam a 58.97 in the 100 back at the Russian national championships in April -- the fastest time in the world this year until Franklin eclipsed it Wednesday. Zueva's personal best of 58.18 is the second-fastest time in the history of the event. Aya Terakawa of Japan set a national record last month with a time of 59.08, and Australia's Emily Seebohm, a gold medalist in the 400 medley relay at the 2008 Olympics, has the seventh-fastest time in history (58.88) and the fifth-fastest this year (59.28).

Franklin's ascent accelerated last year, when she won U.S. titles in the 100 back and 100 freestyle at age 16. At the world championships, she claimed gold in the 200 back and in two relays, plus a relay silver and a bronze in the 50 back.

Olympic coaches Teri McKeever and Gregg Troy said Franklin could become as iconic a figure in American swimming as Phelps, Natalie Coughlin or Ryan Lochte. "She has the same characteristics,'' Troy said. "Her versatility is amazing. She is a great racer. In a close race, she knows how to get her hand on the wall, and those are real, real hard things to teach.''

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