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

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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.

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.

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Detroit 95 FINAL
Washington 99
Atlanta 93 FINAL
Miami 91
Toronto 98 FINAL
New York 103
Memphis 95 4th Qtr 0:43
Minnesota 95
Brooklyn 80 3rd Qtr 0:24
Dallas 67
Milwaukee 43 3rd Qtr 10:34
Utah 47
San Antonio 51 3rd Qtr
Phoenix 24
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Florida 5
Detroit 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Carolina 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
New Jersey 2 FINAL
Columbus 0
Arizona 1 FINAL
Boston 4
Toronto 0 FINAL
Montreal 4
NY Rangers 2 3rd Prd 14:08
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 0 1st Prd 9:53
Colorado 0
St. Louis 0 1st Prd 12:53
Edmonton 0
Ottawa 0 1st Prd 12:11
San Jose 1
Kennesaw St 75 FINAL
Lipscomb 94
Navy 57 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 47
Bucknell 71 FINAL
American Univ 69
NC State 63 FINAL
Boston College 79
East Carolina 71 FINAL
UCF 66
Georgia Tech 63 FINAL
Clemson 70
Lehigh 55 FINAL
Colgate 61
Louisville 81 FINAL
Florida State 59
Missouri 44 FINAL
Georgia 68
Army 64 FINAL
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Michigan 56 FINAL
Maryland 66
Georgetown 70 FINAL
St Johns 81
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La Salle 56
Western Carolina 67 FINAL
Citadel 54
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IUPUI 80
Maine 56 FINAL
New Hampshire 65
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Va Military 69
Presbyterian 53 FINAL
Winthrop 80
Utah State 74 FINAL
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Binghamton 76
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Bradley 52
Butler 67 FINAL
DePaul 53
Illinois State 69 FINAL
Evansville 67
Wright State 46 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 61
Fla Gulf Coast 67 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Ole Miss 63 FINAL
LSU 73
North Carolina 73 FINAL
Miami-Florida 64
Wagner 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 74
TCU 60 FINAL
Oklahoma 67
Delaware 65 FINAL
Towson 60
Cincinnati 63 FINAL
Tulane 47
Dayton 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 55
Northern Iowa 60 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Drexel 80 FINAL
William & Mary 66
Oakland 63 FINAL
Green Bay 83
Villanova 78 FINAL
Xavier 66
Campbell 65 FINAL
Longwood 70
Sarah Lawrence 55 FINAL
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Middle Tennessee 95 FINAL
UAB 100
UNC-Asheville 95 FINAL
Liberty 77
Southern Utah 71 FINAL
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Chicago State 65
ULM 43 FINAL
Appalachian St 66
Bowling Green 62 FINAL
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Long Island 73 FINAL
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Baylor 78
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Boston Univ 70
MD-Eastern Shore 69 FINAL
Delaware State 65
Wofford 62 FINAL
Furman 60
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Idaho 80
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James Madison 82
Iowa State 69 FINAL
Kansas State 70
Arkansas 67 FINAL
Kentucky 84
Missouri State 51 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 65
Fordham 74 FINAL
Massachusetts 82
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East Tenn St 64 FINAL
Mercer 69
Coppin State 88 FINAL
Morgan State 77
San Diego 78 FINAL
Portland 66
Gardner-Webb 62 FINAL
Radford 72
St Francis-PA 70 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Duquesne 75 FINAL
St Bonaventure 92
Creighton 66 FINAL
Seton Hall 67
Oklahoma State 62 FINAL
Texas Tech 63
Alabama 66 FINAL
Vanderbilt 73
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
Virginia 69
Bethune-Cookman 49 FINAL
NC Central 72
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Bryant 61
Drake 57 FINAL
Southern Ill 63
High Point 93 FINAL
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Western Mich 80
Texas 64 FINAL
Kansas 69
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UNC Greensboro 58
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Troy 64
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North Texas 57
Arkansas State 60 FINAL
Texas State 70
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Alabama State 49
Tennessee St 62 FINAL
Belmont 88
Princeton 80 FINAL
Brown 62
Dartmouth 56 FINAL
Cornell 45
Tennessee 49 FINAL
Florida 66
Jacksonville St 55 FINAL
Morehead State 87
San Jose St 51 FINAL
Nevada 62
Florida A&M 65 FINAL
NC A&T 77
Iowa 81 FINAL
Penn State 77
Loyola Marymount 49 FINAL
Pepperdine 65
Miss State 68 FINAL
South Carolina 81
Savannah State 68 FINAL
SC State 57
Miss Valley St 49 FINAL
Jackson State 73
Alcorn State 63 FINAL
Southern U 71
Harvard 80 FINAL
Columbia 70
George Washington 66 FINAL
Davidson 77
Syracuse 54 FINAL
Duke 73
Tenn Tech 67 FINAL
Eastern Ky 70
UNC-Wilmington 55 FINAL
Elon 74
Stony Brook 74 FINAL
Hartford 59
Northwestern 60 FINAL
Illinois 86
Western Ill 64 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 84
Buffalo 71 FINAL
Kent State 65
Incarnate Word 66 FINAL
Lamar 79
Cal State Fullerton 47 FINAL
Long Beach State 70
TX-San Antonio 66 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 76
Fla Atlantic 63 FINAL
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Youngstown St 74
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Northern Ky 84
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
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New Orleans 75
Murray State 73 FINAL
UT Martin 67
Hampton 68 FINAL
Howard 67
Prairie View 75 FINAL
Alabama A&M 72
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Coll of Charleston 56
Tulsa 72 1st OT 1:03
Memphis 69
Wyoming 57 FINAL
UNLV 69
Central Mich 55 FINAL
Northern Ill 73
Denver 57 FINAL
Oral Roberts 60
Charlotte 77 FINAL
Rice 76
Boise State 56 FINAL
San Diego St 46
St Marys-CA 70 FINAL
Santa Clara 71
Texas-El Paso 60 FINAL
Southern Miss 63
New Mexico St 0 Postponed
TX-Pan American 0
FIU 61 FINAL
Western Ky 77
Stephen F Austin 102 FINAL
Houston Baptist 87
Grambling St 57 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Ga Southern 58 2nd Half 0:14
Louisiana 66
Auburn 47 2nd Half 3:51
Texas A&M 69
Ark-Little Rock 73 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 82
Sam Houston St 44 2nd Half 4:57
TX A&M-CC 66
Arizona 29 2nd Half 18:48
Utah 28
Northern Ariz 47 2nd Half 11:58
Northern Colorado 51
UC Davis 4 1st Half 15:53
Cal Poly 6
New Mexico 2 1st Half 15:15
Fresno State 10
BYU 17 1st Half 11:35
Gonzaga 11
Pacific 4 1st Half 13:36
San Francisco 9
Idaho State 6 1st Half 13:48
Weber State 7
Sacramento St 13 1st Half 11:53
Portland State 10
UC Riverside 9:30 PM
CS-Northridge
Washington 9:30 PM
USC
CS-Bakersfield 9:30 PM
Seattle
UC Irvine 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Michigan 60 FINAL
Illinois 72
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
Kennesaw St 75
North Florida 45 FINAL
Stetson 77
Samford 65 FINAL
Mercer 70
Liberty 64 FINAL
Campbell 57
North Texas 48 FINAL
Old Dominion 70
St Francis-NY 62 FINAL
Bryant 52
St Francis-PA 58 FINAL
Robert Morris 73
Long Island 71 FINAL
Sacred Heart 78
Sam Houston St 52 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 60
Kent State 59 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 66
ULM 61 FINAL
Appalachian St 80
Boston U 62 FINAL
Holy Cross 76
Nicholls 73 FINAL
McNeese State 68
Akron 80 FINAL
Buffalo 87
Ball State 50 FINAL
Western Mich 51
MD-Eastern Shore 68 FINAL
Delaware State 61
Northern Ill 52 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 60
Bowling Green 47 FINAL
Ohio U 67
Central Michigan 53 FINAL
Toledo 62
Coppin State 55 FINAL
Morgan State 73
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC Central 33
Central Conn St 77 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 56
Memphis 24 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 87
Georgia Tech 67 FINAL
Wake Forest 60
East Carolina 69 FINAL
Temple 79
Fairfield 72 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Niagara 53 FINAL
Iona 81
Marist 65 FINAL
Rider 56
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Purdue 56
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
USC Upstate 60
East Tenn St 42 FINAL
(18) Chattanooga 64
Furman 70 FINAL
Wofford 53
Longwood 58 FINAL
Charleston Southern 51
UNC-Asheville 87 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 53
Winthrop 60 FINAL
Presbyterian 53
Western Ill 75 FINAL
South Dakota 78
Detroit 78 FINAL
Valparaiso 57
Cleveland State 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 76
Georgia State 75 FINAL
Troy 88
Lafayette 41 FINAL
Army 57
Arkansas State 74 FINAL
Texas State 83
IUPUI 53 FINAL
South Dakota St 82
Tennessee St 70 FINAL
Belmont 53
Eastern Illinois 55 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Jacksonville St 83 FINAL
Morehead St 78
Kansas State 47 FINAL
TCU 67
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
SMU 46
SE Louisiana 57 FINAL
Central Arkansas 73
Denver 40 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 53
Tulane 52 FINAL
Tulsa 54
IUPU-Ft Wayne 56 FINAL
Oral Roberts 84
Air Force 50 FINAL
Utah State 84
San Diego State 58 FINAL
Boise State 62
Fresno State 60 FINAL
New Mexico 63
Florida A&M 42 FINAL
NC A&T 78
Gonzaga 73 FINAL
BYU 66
South Florida 99 FINAL
UCF 71
UCLA 61 FINAL
Washington 74
(3) Baylor 71 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Tenn Tech 84 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 71
UMKC 42 FINAL
Grand Canyon 56
Seattle 61 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 73
Texas Southern 64 FINAL
Alabama State 52
Santa Clara 71 FINAL
St Marys-CA 74
UNLV 68 FINAL
Wyoming 99
Savannah State 55 FINAL
SC State 52
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Southern U 76
Miss Valley St 54 FINAL
Jackson State 58
Bucknell 55 FINAL
American Univ 65
Radford 63 FINAL
High Point 83
Eastern Washington 59 FINAL
Montana 69
Idaho 62 FINAL
Montana State 71
Weber State 56 FINAL
Idaho State 63
Green Bay 73 FINAL
Youngstown St 27
Oakland 54 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 64
Austin Peay 72 FINAL
SE Missouri St 67
Wagner 65 FINAL
Mount St Marys 68
Portland 72 FINAL
San Diego 80
Nevada 72 FINAL
San Jose St 81
Stephen F Austin 69 FINAL
Houston Baptist 57
Incarnate Word 64 FINAL
Lamar 81
Abilene Christian 50 FINAL
New Orleans 71
Pepperdine 57 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 74
San Francisco 91 FINAL
Pacific 79
Prairie View 81 FINAL
Alabama A&M 71
Hampton 106 FINAL
Howard 57
Chicago State 53 FINAL
Utah Valley U 68
Cal Poly 75 FINAL
Cal-Irvine 84
UC Santa Barbara 57 FINAL
UC Davis 52
Marshall 73 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 83
Portland State 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 123
Western Ky 88 FINAL
FIU 47
UAB 62 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Georgia Southern 35 FINAL
Louisiana 62
Grambling 59 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 45
Ark-Little Rock 48 FINAL
TX-Arlington 38
Cornell 33 FINAL
Dartmouth 54
Columbia 81 FINAL
Harvard 82
Brown 67 FINAL
(14) Princeton 79
USC 62 FINAL
Washington St 68
(24) California 55 FINAL
(7) Oregon State 73
Yale 33 FINAL
Penn 59
Murray State 74 FINAL
UT Martin 87
Loyola-Maryland 50 FINAL
Navy 59
Jacksonville 47 FINAL
(21) Fla Gulf Coast 78
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 62
Rice 59 FINAL
Charlotte 78
Colgate 61 FINAL
Lehigh 60
CS-Northridge 88 FINAL
UC-Riverside 70
Kansas 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 58
Oklahoma St 47 FINAL
Texas Tech 44
TX-Pan American 40 2nd Half 13:25
New Mexico St 53
North Dakota 38 2nd Half 13:23
Southern Utah 50
Northern Colorado 14 1st Half 11:56
Northern Ariz 11

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