Column: Tired of all that bad news in sports? Check out Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky

  • Article by: PAUL NEWBERRY , AP National Writer
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 12:00 PM
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Missy Franklin

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press file

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BARCELONA, Spain — The news from back home sounds so discouraging.

A-Rod and his cohorts awaiting their fate in another wretched doping scandal. A former MVP already benched for the baseball season after finally coming clean — well, sort of — to using pharmaceuticals that gave him an edge on the field. An NFL player sent off to sensitivity training after shouting a racial slur at a concert.

We all could use a reason to cheer.

Well, there are two of them at the world swimming championships.

Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky.

By all accounts, these teenagers make good grades in school, mind their parents, eat their vegetables, say "yes sir" and "thank you" at all the right times, don't post ugly messages on social media, and aren't exactly in a mad dash to cash in on their athletic excellence, defying a world that screams out, "Get it while you can!"

They're a refreshing break amid a summer of scandal.

"How is everyone?" Franklin says to the assembled media at the beginning of each day, always with a big smile on her face. Just like that, any thoughts of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun or Riley Cooper melt right away.

Franklin is 18, a recent high school graduate who'll head off in the fall to Cal. She hasn't decided what career she wants to pursue. Medicine is a possibility. She's interested in marine biology, too. And she's always wanted to become an elementary school teacher. But there's plenty of time to sort that out.

Ledecky is only 16, getting ready for her junior year of high school. She enjoys history, hanging out with friends or just watching the news with her mom, showing an increasing interest in all that's going on in the world. She's just starting to think about where she might want to go to college. Her most pressing priority at the moment is getting a driver's license when she gets home from Barcelona.

"I could've gotten my permit in December," Ledecky said. "But I kept saying, 'Ohh, I'll get it next week.' Then I'd have a swim meet the next week and I'd be resting up, and I didn't want to go out and get germs from the DMV or wait in line. I kept putting it off, so I just decided to get it after worlds."

Franklin is the more famous of the two, coming off her four gold medals at the London Olympics last summer.

But, as so often happens with athletes outside the major U.S. sports, that fame tends to wane until the next Summer Games. The folks back in America may not have even noticed — with pennant races and NFL training camps and all the aforementioned nastiness — that Franklin is on the cusp of an even greater performance at the biggest swim meet outside the Olympics.

She won golds in her first four events, a streak that finally ended Friday night when she finished fourth in the 100-meter freestyle. But she's still got two more events to go, and a good shot at winning them both. That would put her in some pretty rarified territory indeed. At the moment, Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Kristin Otto are the only swimmers to win six golds at either the Olympics or the world championships.

Franklin acknowledged being "a little bummed" about her first loss of the meet.

But she never stays down for long.

Just like that, Franklin got back to what passes for normal in her world — the ever-present smile, the perpetually bouncy personality, the unlimited sense of optimism. She always seems so dang upbeat that some international journalists have wondered, quite naturally, whether it's all just an act. Unless she's pulling an amazing con job, apparently that's just her.

Ledecky is more reserved than Franklin, but her confidence and poise has clearly grown since last summer, when she seemingly coming out of nowhere to capture an Olympic gold medal in the grueling 800 freestyle.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 77 3rd Qtr 1:48
Philadelphia 74
Houston 60 3rd Qtr
Boston 42
Portland 51 3rd Qtr
Atlanta 50
Sacramento 44 3rd Qtr
Cleveland 55
Toronto 66 3rd Qtr
Brooklyn 54
Dallas 13 2nd Qtr 10:57
Miami 18
LA Clippers 35 2nd Qtr 8:10
New Orleans 32
Golden State 8:00 PM
Utah
Chicago 9:30 PM
Phoenix
Pittsburgh 0 3rd Prd
New Jersey 0
St. Louis 2 3rd Prd
Carolina 2
Nashville 8:00 PM
Colorado
Buffalo 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Chicago 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 44 2nd Half 5:27
Canisius 49
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 67 2nd Half 5:58
Manhattan 72
Marist 54 2nd Half 3:25
Niagara 56
Dartmouth 45 2nd Half 4:30
Penn 50
Oregon 32 1st Half 1:23
Arizona State 27
Yale 32 1st Half 1:55
Columbia 28
Monmouth 22 1st Half 3:20
Fairfield 20
IUPUI 27 1st Half 0:55
Western Ill 26
Oregon State 9:00 PM
Arizona
Kent State 9:00 PM
Buffalo
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Butler 63 2nd Half 1:18
Providence 56
Cornell 60 2nd Half 2:00
Brown 50
Penn 54 2nd Half 0:23
Dartmouth 36
Elon 42 2nd Half 7:59
James Madison 71
(19) Princeton 84 2nd Half 4:27
Harvard 42
(9) Florida State 72 2nd Half 4:32
Georgia Tech 51
Quinnipiac 82 2nd Half 2:02
Siena 57
Richmond 54 2nd Half 0:07
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 49 2nd Half 4:59
Southern Ill 54
Georgetown 11 1st Half 6:24
DePaul 41
Villanova 27 1st Half 5:44
Marquette 23
Wichita State 21 1st Half 3:25
Northern Iowa 7
Xavier 26 1st Half 1:40
Creighton 36
Bradley 26 1st Half 3:42
Illinois State 19
Missouri State 20 1st Half 6:23
Drake 34
Arizona 8:00 PM
Utah
(11) Arizona State 8:00 PM
Colorado

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