By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Missy Franklin has had quite a summer. She tells us about her training, her teammates, Worlds and Nationals – and just who on the National Team is the one to go shopping with if you need bargaining power – in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. What are you up to right now?
Missy: Right now, I am trying to finish my last summer reading book, A Farewell to Arms. I just started it this morning. I’m a hundred pages in, and I’m getting into it.
2. What was it like winning your first medal at Worlds?
Missy: It was amazing. It was the best feeling ever. Every swimmer, I think, dreams of being on that podium and hearing your National Anthem. I was so excited that I could not stop smiling. My cheeks (laughs) literally hurt afterward from smiling so much. Also, one of my favorite parts of swim meets is walking into the pool the first time, and at Worlds that was incredible. The whole facility, with swimming, water polo and diving, was just so impressive.
3. Was the travel something you also learned from in terms of gaining experience?
Missy: Yes, getting adjusted to being in China was a big part of it – just getting used to everything and being open to change and not everything going according to plans or exactly along the schedules we had. It was a good experience, and I learned so much from it.
4. What did you take from this, your first big international meet?
Missy: I think this was the first meet I went to where I had that much self-confidence. I don’t know what it was but I got there and I felt so good. I was having so much fun, and I didn’t get nervous. In fact, that was the first meet I went to where I was not nervous. I was so comfortable and relaxed, and I realized from the experience that is how I swim best, knowing that all the training I put in, the sacrifices I made, the 4 a.m. (laughs) wake-up calls, were all worth it.
5. How about getting five medals – three gold, one silver, one bronze – and having at least one of each?
Missy: I did not expect that. It was so beyond my expectations. I just wanted to make finals. Going in there, I was so happy to be there, but then it was time to get after it. I felt so good walking out in all the finals. You have to have that confidence that you are ready to do what you are capable of doing, and let everything else go. You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t earn it. I was so happy to get a medal of each kind. I call them all my (laughs) “Little Family.”
6. What was it like being on the medley relay with Rebecca Soni, Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer?
Missy: It was unbelievable standing with the best breaststroker, the best backstroker and the best butterflyer in the world. The best part for me is that those three amazing women – and even though they are the best in the pool, they are even better as people – made me feel like I was part of the relay, made me feel like I earned my spot, and made me feel like I belonged there. That helped me perform my best. They were such a team. They made me feel like I was supposed to be anchoring that relay. I will never forget looking up and seeing those three amazing faces. To have my first anchor was so exciting because anchoring relays is my favorite thing to do. To have my very last race of the meet be the 200 back and then anchoring that relay… that whole night was perfect for me. I could not ask for anything more.
7. While a lot is made of your age, and Michael Phelps and others when they came up, it really is about swimming fast at the end of the day, regardless of age, isn’t it? Because some people are fast when they are younger, some when they are older, some in between, etc., right?
Missy: I totally get what you are saying, and in swimming, it does not matter how old you are, because once you get up behind the blocks, it’s about your training and your mindset – how bad you want it. That’s one of the better parts about swimming. Once you get in the water, it’s anyone’s game.
8. A lot has been made – and deservedly so – about your performance at Worlds, but those medals are about a lot more than just the incredible one- and two-minute performances that went into winning them, correct?
Missy: It is, there is so much more. You spend months and years training as hard and as smart you can, but then it does come down to that minute or minutes. That’s why swimming can bring some pressure, because years of effort come down to that final 60 seconds or a couple of minutes. We all put in similar efforts to prepare. It all comes down to being ready for what you have to do, believing in yourself, and having fun, which you will have if you know you are prepared.
9. You mentioned Dana, Natalie and Rebecca, and you’ve also told me before about Ariana Kukors, Amanda Beard, Elizabeth Pelton, Katie Hoff, Kate Ziegler, Dagny Knutson, Chloe Sutton, Elizabeth Beisel, Kara Lynn Joyce, and others. Is this the best time ever to be a U.S. women’s swimmer and have these kind of teammates?
Missy: Absolutely, there’s no doubt in my mind that I have come into it at such a perfect time. There are so many incredible, beautiful and intelligent women on our team, and to be able to be a part of it and get to know them is an honor. I appreciate the time I get with them all. I get to go on trips with most amazing swimmers this world has ever seen on one team. I get to be a part of it and see and learn from it all. At the same time, I was able to go on Youth Team trips, so I will be friends already with the National Team members who are coming in, and I am really excited about that, too.
10. Your backstrokes are really coming on, aren’t they?
Missy: My 200 and 100 felt so good at Worlds, but honestly, the best my 100 ever felt was at Nationals, which was weird, because I was tired and sick. It was funny because the morning of the 100 backstroke prelim (at Nationals), my time was what I took my 200 back out in at World. My coach, Todd, told me after that swim, “Are you serious?” I had no idea how that happened, but it did feel good. I am ready to start training again now after the break and vacation after Worlds and Nationals. I miss the water so much.
11. You didn’t feel well at Nationals?
Missy: I was sick, but I don’t have any right to complain about it. I just had a cold, so my nose and throat were bothering me. Really, I was fine, and the best part is, having Worlds and Nationals like that really prepared me for next year because if I do make the (Olympic) team, this year will have prepared me for tapering for Trials and then the training camp that comes after that. (Club and National Team teammate) Kara (Lynn Joyce) and I have talked about that a million times, about how it’s exciting to get to the camp, but there’s a lot of training to do if you’re fortunate enough to make the team.
12. Kara moving to Colorado Stars to train under Todd has been a great thing for you as well, hasn’ tit?
Missy: She is my big sister, without a doubt. I absolutely adore her. She just gets me and Todd laughing all the time. She has all these great one-liners. I think training with Kara it has helped me even more than I ever imagined it would. Having her there at morning practices is just such a great thing. She brings me up and pushes me, really brings that competitive edge out of me. She loves to race, and so we do it – we push each other.
13. How well does your coach’s training program work for you?
Missy: I think the fact that all my strokes feel better than they ever have, especially my backstroke and freestyle, show it works well for me. What I like about Todd is that he is always so random with his sets, which I love because we don’t have anything set on certain days. Every day he switches it up, and a lot of it is based on how I feel or where I need work, so having that flexibility to take all that into consideration really works for me.
14. Your IM has come on strong. Where does that race need to improve, in your mind?
Missy: Right now I think that the main thing my IM needs is the breaststroke. That stroke absolutely kills me. I went 39 at Nationals which was great for me – the only time I’ve been below 40 – and there’s the incredible Caitlin Leverenz next to me going 36! I talked with Ari (Kukors) about it, and really, the breaststroke is what makes or breaks your IM, because it comes on the third leg when you are really tired, and it’s a stroke that’s so easy to think you can slack off on, but you really can’t if you want to be a good IMer. So if I want to boost my IM, I’m going to have to boost my breaststroke – and butterfly – training.
15. What was it like taking your first extended break in a long time?
Missy: It was pretty amazing, because I sat down and did absolutely nothing for the first time in my life. We had quality family time that we have not been able to have in a while. But that’s the longest I’ve been away from home. I’d never been gone for so long. It was a rejuvenating trip. I got my body rested, and I am now (laughs) a bit tanner than I was before!
16. Did you do any shopping in Shanghai?
Missy: We went to markets in Shanghai, which was definitely an experience. People were running after you wanting to sell you something. I didn’t know how to bargain. But luckily, I went with Kate Ziegler, and she was so good at it. She’s so funny and great to be around. It was fun to watch Kate be so firm bargaining because she is the sweetest girl ever. But she got me such great deals. In Australia, I really didn’t have any big shopping trips, though I did get to see Harry Potter, and we went to the beach.
17. Wow, a world champ for a shopping partner – you’ve made some pretty cool friends, haven’t you?
Missy: I have great friends like that at home and at school, too. But yes, the National Teamers are so much fun to be with, especially since many of them know what it was like to be so young and go on those kind of trips. I can just go up to them and ask them any questions I have. But let me tell you, Kate was really great because she didn’t get that much for herself. She did most of the bargaining to get me better deals on the stuff I got.
18. How did Nationals go for you?
Missy: You know, I was disappointed in my 200 IM. I wanted to do better, but considering it was my first day back, it was still all right. I was thrilled overall with how the meet went. My club teammates were there, and it was special to spend time with them.
19. Was it hard coming back from Shanghai and hitting the pool for Nationals right away?
Missy: Traveling was tiring, but I am just thankful that I get to do these incredible things with these amazing people. I was rooming with Kara when we got back, and the day we got in, we told Todd we had to take a nap. He said, “Fine, take a few hours.” Let me tell you, getting up from that nap was the hardest (laughs) thing I ever had to do. Kara and I were blacked out and in such a deep sleep. When that alarm clock went off, I almost (laughs) started crying. The next morning, our bodies weren’t back on U.S. time yet, so we woke up at 4, made popcorn, watched a movie and checked on Facebook to see which of our friends were awake. So it wasn’t that bad, and I am really just very fortunate for these opportunities.
20. Do these friendships and memories mean as much as the medals?
Missy: There’s a quote at Olympic Training Center, and I can’t remember it exactly, but it talks about what a medal is, and how much the experiences and people mean. I am so thankful for, and proud of, my medals, and it’s an amazing honor to have them. But honestly, you can't compare it to the friends you make and the people you meet. If you really love swimming, you don’t do it for the medals or the publicity and attention. You still win if you have fun. I love medals, but training with my teammates and traveling to meets and having these great memories with these awesome people is what I treasure the most. I save the medals, of course, but I keep all the laughs and smiles with me all the time.