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
hide

Missy Franklin

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

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.

Her races in Barcelona have been even better. Ledecky broke the world record in the 1,500 freestyle by a whopping 6 seconds, landing a spot on ESPN's "Plays of the Day" with a little help from USA Swimming and their followers on Twitter. She nearly broke another record while winning the 400 free and, along with Franklin, helped the U.S. capture gold in the 800 free relay. Ledecky has one event left in Barcelona, the 800 free, and she's a big favorite to take home another gold — and maybe another record.

But Ledecky seems to be taking it all in stride, like all these medals and records are no big deal.

Her coach, Bruce Gemmell, points to what happened after the Olympics.

"She went home, slept in her same room, mom was still making meals ... mom and dad were still driving her to practice and driving her to school," Gemmell said. "I think the biggest change in her life in the past year was her brother went off to college. The rest of it was pretty much what she had been doing. There's a lot of benefit to that."

Franklin followed basically the same path after the Olympics. She went back to Colorado for her senior year of high school and lived, for the most part, like a normal kid rather than a four-time Olympic gold medalist. Sure, she walked some red carpets and got to meet Justin Bieber. But she also went on retreats with his classmates, attended the prom, joined clubs, passed out cookies and hot chocolate during finals week, and competed on her school's swim team.

"It was a perfect, incredible senior year for me," she said.

If Franklin had turned pro after the London Olympics, she'd probably be a millionaire by now. But she and her parents felt there were more important things to life than just getting rich, and that plan sure seems to be working for them. Ditto for Ledecky, who plans on putting off adulthood as long as she can. For now, it's all about getting that driver's license.

Franklin put it best during an interview I did with her back in May, just days before she graduated.

"I think such a vital part growing up, such a huge thing for me, is staying normal," she said. "I didn't want to look back 10 years from now and wish I done my senior year of high school, wish I had gone to the prom, wish I had had experienced those things. Those experiences make us who we are."

See, the news isn't all bad.

You've just got to know where to look.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 111 FINAL
Orlando 96
Brooklyn 99 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Portland 105 FINAL
Charlotte 97
Washington 87 FINAL
Cleveland 113
LA Clippers 104 FINAL
Detroit 98
New York 102 FINAL
Dallas 109
Toronto 126 FINAL
Atlanta 115
Milwaukee 103 FINAL
Minnesota 86
Sacramento 89 FINAL
Houston 102
Utah 82 FINAL
Oklahoma City 97
Indiana 100 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Denver 112 FINAL
Phoenix 120
Memphis 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 93
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Washington 2 FINAL(OT)
NY Islanders 3
Philadelphia 2 FINAL
Detroit 5
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
Florida 1
Toronto 3 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Chicago 3 FINAL
Colorado 2
Calgary 2 FINAL
San Jose 0
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
Denver 57 FINAL
Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
Northeastern 54 FINAL
Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
North Florida 72 FINAL
Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 72 FINAL
UAB 43
Davidson 95 FINAL
UCF 69
Albany 75 FINAL
Colgate 71
Longwood 66 FINAL
George Washington 91
Delaware State 76 FINAL
Iona 126
Trinity Baptist 57 FINAL
Jacksonville 69
Cleveland State 33 FINAL
Louisville 45
St Johns 70 FINAL
Minnesota 61
PSU-Harrisburg 42 FINAL
Navy 67
Richmond 72 FINAL
NC State 84
Grambling St 54 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Oakland 78
Campbell 64 FINAL
Ohio State 91
Goucher 43 FINAL
Towson 97
Bryant 47 FINAL
Vermont 73
Miami-Ohio 63 FINAL
Virginia Tech 78
Mount St Marys 49 FINAL
Wake Forest 83
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Yale 82
UMKC 63 FINAL
Youngstown St 66
Canisius 60 FINAL
Cornell 67
Va Military 72 FINAL
West Virginia 103
Lehigh 86 FINAL
DePaul 74
UC Riverside 62 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 66
Morehead State 77 FINAL
Marshall 68
Miss Valley St 52 FINAL
North Texas 67
UNC-Asheville 75 FINAL
South Carolina 89
Tenn Tech 65 FINAL
SE Louisiana 86
Texas Southern 59 FINAL
SMU 72
Radford 50 FINAL
TCU 74
TX-Pan American 48 FINAL
Utah 85
Wayne St-NE 69 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Kansas State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 70
Northern Ill 49 FINAL
Iowa 70
Fla Gulf Coast 45 FINAL
Green Bay 59
Carroll (MT) 52 FINAL
Montana 75
Florida A&M 33 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
Auburn 71 FINAL
Oregon State 69
Eastern Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Utah 64
Stetson 41 FINAL
Wyoming 65
Northern Ky 60 FINAL
Eastern Wash 81
Utah Valley U 60 FINAL
Idaho State 57
Florida 65 FINAL
Georgetown 66
Northwestern 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 61
Georgia 76 FINAL
Gonzaga 88
Cal Poly 52 FINAL
California 72
Utah State 70 FINAL
UC Davis 77
Arizona 61 FINAL
San Diego St 59
Alabama State 68 FINAL
North Dakota 75
Portland State 63 FINAL
CS-Northridge 55
Tulsa 58 FINAL
Oklahoma State 73
Pacific 71 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 62
Missouri State 61 FINAL
Colorado State 76
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Kennesaw St 74 FINAL
Seton Hall 77
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 55
Illinois-Chicago 40 FINAL
Northwestern 61
UT Martin 75 FINAL
Samford 79
Niagara 63 FINAL
Binghamton 52
Radford 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 72
East Tenn St 69 FINAL
Indiana 97
North Dakota 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 52
Marshall 49 FINAL
Cornell 58
Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 54
LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Boise State 59 FINAL
Yale 53
Evansville 39 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 83
(4) Tennessee 63 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
Delaware State 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 73
Bradley 74 FINAL
Columbia 81
Providence 56 FINAL
Dayton 72
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Albany 64 FINAL
Canisius 59
VA Commonwealth 48 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Alabama A&M 44 FINAL
Alabama 75
Colgate 35 FINAL
(22) Georgia 66
Memphis 75 FINAL
Southern Ill 82
Oakland 64 FINAL
(16) Michigan State 79
Utah Valley U 49 FINAL
UC Davis 59
Butler 62 FINAL
BYU 81
TX-Pan American 45 FINAL
(6) Texas 72
McNeese State 27 FINAL
(7) Texas A&M 93
Milwaukee 80 FINAL
Marquette 85
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
TX-Arlington 80
Jackson State 70 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Indiana State 74 FINAL
South Alabama 53
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 60
Iona 49 FINAL
Kansas 90
Fresno Pacific 60 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 82

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will the Gophers bring home The Axe?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close