20 Question Tuesday: Missy Franklin Part 2


Missy Franklin (large)

By Bob Schaller//Correspondent

In this second part of two, Missy Franklin updates readers on both her swimming and several of her favorite hobbies. The Cal Bears NCAA Champion a year ago and gold-medal winner from the London Olympics in 2012. She’s looking forward to the Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin this week, as she explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday. 

1. You must be able to respect and appreciate what Katie Ledecky is doing as much as anyone?

Missy: Absolutely. It’s been incredible watching Katie and what she’s been doing. Of course, she is even more incredible as a person, which is really saying something. The respect I have for her, watching her grow up and seeing how she carries herself and what a leader she’s become is just incredible. And it really could not happen to a nicer person. If you met her outside of swimming -- didn’t know she was a swimmer -- she would have a huge impact on you and you’d be so impressed with the kind of thinker and person she is. And then you see her in the pool and watch her go! She’s doing things many people might not have thought were possible. But those who have watched her work know you can never tell Katie Ledecky that she can’t do something. Her attitude is, “Let’s go make this happen.” It’s been so cool watching and cheering for her. 

2. What do you think of Michael Phelps’ incredible journey and this most recent turn of personal bliss and loving the sport again and training so hard?
It warmed my heart. What means the most to me is hearing him talk about his beautiful, wonderful fiancé and how excited he is to be a father. He is in such a good place, and that is the most amazing, and important, thing to me. He definitely does love the sport. His life just seems so well balanced now. He is working so hard. I could not be more proud of him seeing what he is doing back in the pool. But what I’m really excited is how great he looks and sounds, taking such good care of himself and surrounding himself with such a positive environment.

3. What did you learn about being a teammate at Cal?

Missy: I think respect -- it’s all about respecting your teammates. And at Cal, you not only respect them but you really like them. We got along so well. It was just an incredible group of women, and so inspiring to be around them every day.

4. You had that back injury after getting back into backstroke a while back, how is that now?
I still go to physical therapy twice a week. I feel like I have been getting so much stronger. Minnesota was the first meet I have been happy with my performance at in a long time. So it’s a good take away from that and Nationals. We had a good (Colorado Stars) training trip in Hawaii -- 71k (meters) in 10 practices, really getting after it and hitting it hard. I am looking forward to Austin (this weekend).

5. You had that challenge with the injury and struggled a bit your freshman year, but came back to strong last season to win NCAAs -- what does that tell you?
That this journey is always such a learning experience. Before London, I never really experienced a “down” in my career; it had been up, and up, and up. So to get off of that trajectory and have bumps in my career was so new. But that’s what swimming is -- and that’s what life is. You figure out how to get through that. It’s just like when you aren’t getting the results you want...how do you train your heart out and you’re not seeing the results at meets? That’s hard, to give yourself so entirely to something, get to a big meet and not have it turn out like you expected.

6. What got you through that and out the other side then?
You have to have faith in yourself. Faith that you are doing your best. That you are trying your hardest. Training is “never not going to pay off” -- it does at some point, and it just isn’t always when you expect it, or when you want it to. So you just have to believe, and keep going. Believe in the work you do. You are doing what you can to be your best, so be proud of that.

7. Ironic that the greatest growth comes not from wins and medals but challenges and setbacks, isn’t it?
The disappointment happens to everyone -- all of us, and a lot more than you might think. But it’s what you do with it that determines how it impacts you. You have to keep pushing and keep moving forward, which is easier said than done in the moment. I felt at Worlds, and finally, at Minnesota, I came through again. That feeling was very rewarding because of what it took to get there, and what it taught me along the way. It’s almost more rewarding than constantly going best times because you have to fight for it, and that was a new experience for me.

8. The Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool allayed a lot of perhaps irrational panic about the state of USA Swimming -- did the team sense part of the public’s mood after this summer even though our teams were spread world-wide and fared very well in most cases?

Missy: I think it was hard for a lot of people to hear those sort of comments. We know Team USA is expected to do a lot; that’s our culture and that’s our proud history. We are meant to do amazing things, do incredible things -- we are counted on to shock the world as amazing America. But it is impossible to do that all the time, and at every month in the (quadrennial). We’ll do all we can but we’re not going to win every event, every time. And frankly, we’re proud that the world is getting better at swimming because the sport is growing world-wide, and that’s a good thing because this is a great lifestyle that can help everyone, anywhere. So hearing that this summer was a bit uncomfortable at times, but all we have to do is remind ourselves that we are doing our best. It’s funny that I get five medals at World Championships and I was super-disappointed, but we hold ourselves to that high standard and have those high expectations of ourselves, too.  

9. How do you all as leaders handle that?
Tyler Clary said one night when we were talking about that -- he had this great line, “Who on earth will remember this summer when next summer comes around?” That’s so true -- no one will. And talk about leaders, you should have heard Elizabeth Beisel at our team meeting. She said, “I know we have been getting hit pretty hard, but this is Worlds. We are Team USA, we are improving and we will be ready next summer. That’s when we have to show up and we will. Don’t let this bother you. We know everyone’s doing the best you can right now.” We really took that to heart and kept moving forward.

10. Switching gears, have you caught any of the big movies out early this year or back over the holidays?
I really want to, but I haven’t yet. I for sure need to see Star Wars. Sisters is also something I want to see. I don’t remember the last movie I saw in a theater!

11. What was Hawaii like for a training trip?
I do love Hawaii. We had so much fun. We had a great time. A lot of work and a lot of training. It’s nice to be somewhere so beautiful and just enjoy it and after training ends, go out for a nice dinner and spend time away from the pool with people you just worked so hard with.

12. So I hear of college students, usually female, being on Pinterest -- you into that at all?
Oh yes! I am a big Pinterest user. I use it for, seriously, everything -- recipes, nails, designs, DIY -- I do it for all of those things.

13. What sticks out about your Christmas gift exchange this year?
Definitely, (her new cat) Prince is the best present. He is such a little angel - by far the most amazing present ever, what a gift it is to have a beautiful little personality’s love and care. So yes, Prince is the best present ever. I got a couple of cute things. I think the other “best present” -- and I am proud of this -- is I was able to get my Mom “Dr. Chivago” -- I had to go to a million stores (laughs) to find it, but I finally found it at a Barnes & Noble. Part of growing older is that what Christmas means to you evolves - takes on a different meaning. And I saw that with what the thought behind the DVD meant to my Mom more than the $20 it cost. My Mom was so happy, and we were able to watch her movie together as a family. It’s funny because when they asked me what I wanted this year, I honestly said, “I have so much and don’t need anything.” And then I get this kitten, and it’s a gift in every single way you can imagine.

14. How has the transition back home affected your dryland?
I am still working with Loren Landow, who I was working with before I went out to Cal. He is just incredible. He gives me so much more than just training -- he is really good at supporting his athletes emotionally and understanding us. He takes the time to get to know us. He comes to meets, travels with us; he went on our training trip to Hawaii. So he sees what we do. Everything we do in the weight room has a purpose, and he can give you (laughs) the play-by-play reason on what it will strengthen and how it will help. One of my favorite parts of each week is training three times with him.

15. You’ve mentioned how much you miss Cal, your teammates, the community, the academics, but how much has it helped now to be able to rest at this key time in the quadrennial after workouts, and recover?
To be able to rest has been so key for me. To be able to go and have a great practice, then leave it all in the pool, and have an amazing rest session, then come home and rest, not worry and take it easy has been huge for me. This was the year to make that choice, even though it certainly is a trade-off and I was very happy at Cal. I am very fortunate and blessed to have had two great options. 

16. When I lived in the Bay Area, I could never get over the food when we’d go to San Francisco and Berkeley - was that your experience?
It’s unbelievable! By far what I miss most are my teammates - I am just (laughs) dying without them and I miss them so much! But the food, yes, is unreal. Oh my gosh, I miss that so much! 

17. Last time we chatted when you got your apartment at Cal you and your roommate were cooking up a storm - still doing that now at home?
Let me see, I made the Thanksgiving meal! And everyone (laughs) is okay, everyone lived through it! It all turned out awesome. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I made an amazing pumpkin pie too. I am all about (laughs) the Food Network Apps so I found recipes - on the pumpkin pie, I don’t know how I didn’t eat (laughs) the whole thing! I literally could have sat there with my fork, start to finish! 

18. Aside from special occasions, how much has your nutrition changed at age 20 compared to say as a teen before London?
My nutrition has become much more important. Specifically, as I get older, I understand better the impact it has on my recovery. So I have taken that seriously, and taken it into my own hands. And it’s been a fun challenge. I get everything I need in my diet and don’t take any supplements or anything; it’s important to me that I get it all naturally. So I put a lot of thought into my food. It’s hysterical because my Dad and Mom went up to the mountains and the last thing my Dad said on the way out to my Mom was, “Oh my God, can we PLEASE get real eggs and real bacon while we’re up there?” I only do egg whites and turkey bacon, so he was pretty (laughs) excited for the real thing!

19. I think what those of us who interview you appreciate the most is your enthusiasm and integrity -- medals aside, you seem so appreciative of your life -- keeping that smile handy helps, doesn’t it?
Thank you -- that’s very kind of you to mention that. I might be a little biased (laughs) and too optimistic about everything, but I just think every day can always be so exciting! And it’s always going to be -- no more and certainly no less -- what you make it to be. There is so much going on, things swim related, school related, or other events I am so fortunate to be a part of. I have great teammates, had the best time in the world at Cal, and I’ve been blessed to have great coaches here and in college, and on our U.S. National Teams every time! Everything you decide to do, or that comes up, you have a choice of what you are going to make it to be -- are you going to enjoy the challenge? Whether it’s good or bad, a smile and good attitude are always going to help, or at least that’s what I really do believe!

20. You mention the challenges. We talked about your times coming around, injuries and physical therapy -- but those challenges are in fact where the most growth takes place, aren’t they?
I have been so blessed and I have lived a blessed life. If and when I come across these tribulations, these trials, this is the person I want to be when I am going through a hard time. It’s hard when those happen, especially several at a time, to stay true to that. But that’s where your support -- your faith, family, teammates, coaches -- help you. Will you be the person you are committed to being regardless of the circumstances? To me, that’s important. I have had some new experiences at times, and if you stay true to who you are, you will learn so much and it will shape you in ways you could never imagine, and those lessons don’t hold you back, they push you forward. So when there are challenging times, and you are pushed to the limits, realize what a great opportunity it is to learn. Even when it’s the most difficult, I always pause to think about how fortunate I am to be going through these things that are going to shape me into the woman I am going to be become -- the woman I want to be.