By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
This week and next, 20 Questions will have a two-part edition with one of the best swimmers – and one of the most wonderful young people – in the world. Missy Franklin fills us in on what is going on in her life now, and moving forward into the next exciting chapter of her academic and swimming life. This week, Missy takes us inside her world right now
1. You are heading down – during your school’s spring break – from March 29 to April 6 to do something very special MakeAHero.org fundraising campaign, which supports “the healing power of the ocean and adaptive water sports.” You will star as “athlete ambassador” with a cast that features, among others, 2012 Paralympic gold medalist Mallory Weggeman. We’ll talk more about other good causes you support in next week’s 20 Questions, but how did you get involved in “The Current” campaign, and why?
Missy: Throughout my life, my Mom has been a physician working exclusively with the disabled. I have spent many hours with her getting to know some of these special people. I've also become friends with some of the Paralympians. Mallory is amazing and I have so much admiration for how she has handled her disability. I am honestly humbled by all the individuals in this film and can't wait to spend time with them. I'm so excited to spend a week with Mallory, meet her family, and swim with the wild dolphins. I'm honored to be the ambassador for this film.
2. Coming back from Orlando, how do you feel swimming wise?
Missy: I feel pretty good after this weekend. I’m definitely (laughs) exhausted. I am happy with my swims, and got some motivation. It was a blast, I had so much fun.
3. You are always so happy and upbeat – how do you keep that smile on all the time?
Missy: Oh my gosh, my smile is always on just because I love to smile!
4. Swimming for your high school, Regis, at state, as a senior – what was that like?
Missy: That state meet was so incredible. I am so lucky to have been a part of the state meet. I have said it many times, it was a hard decision for me (to swim high school this year). I did not want people to think it was for the wrong reasons.
5. What were the reasons?
Missy: To be with the people I care about, and people who care about me, and most importantly, be there for my team and enjoy swimming and representing my school. To be there for one last time with Regis… that’s something I will never get a chance to do again, and it was emotional and exhausting, both, in the most wonderful ways you could imagine.
6. You picked Cal for college – it’s a perfect fit for you, isn’t it?
Missy: Actually, yes, I couldn’t agree (laughs) with you more. I just went with what I felt after I went and visited and met everyone. To be honest, the Bay Area felt like home from the time I got off the plane. That’s what I remember, that feeling of knowing I belonged there.
7. Was it a hard process?
Missy: Absolutely, but it was fun and I am fortunate to have those experiences and meet such amazing people each of the three places I went. I journal a lot, and did after my recruiting trips. I had several reasons to go to each school, but I kept coming back to one reason for Cal: Because I felt like I was supposed to be there.
8. The other schools, you also enjoyed?
Missy: I really did. You know how great Jack Bauerle and the team and program are at Georgia, and I really loved Texas and what Coach Carol Capitani is doing there – it’s such a great team in Austin. So that made it tough to decide. I just had an intuitive feel for Cal.
9. You’ll also be rejoined with a pretty special swimmer from the Olympic team, won’t you?
Missy: Oh my gosh, yes, Natalie! You know, when she made the team at Trials, it was so incredible. That was one where when she had made it, you got so excited for her – and I was personally excited because I got to be on the Olympic team with my role model. Now, she is not only my role model, but I have been on the Olympic team with my idol!
10. There’s someone else special there in the water, right?
Missy: A whole bunch of people. But yes, in terms of the Olympics and before that, Dana Vollmer who is just an incredible role model and constant source of inspiration to so many of us. There is no one to compare to her.
11. Is there a back story there?
Missy: Dana and I roomed together at 2010 Pan Pacs, and we got really close. I was so young and had no idea what I was doing. We were talking about that just the other day, in fact, because Dana and I are ones who really like to keep the stuffed animals from the (medals) stand that we get. I just really like the memories. Well, there was one of these gray hooded bears at Pan Pacs that I never got, and Dana could tell I wanted one, so she came up to me after and gave it to me, “I want you to have this.” I still have it right now. That means so much to me – the gesture itself was just so thoughtful and considerate.
12. And you are a bit familiar with your college coaches already aren’t you?
Missy: You know, there were so many things to learn and experience making the team and being on it, but one of the greatest things for me personally was also being able to work with all these great coaches before I started the recruiting process; to have that experience beforehand was awesome, and I love ALL of those coaches dearly. I was actually jealous watching the Cal group working with Teri, which I took as another signal that I wanted to go there, and was meant to, plus I saw what her athletes and the entire team meant to her.
13. That must be comforting, feeling good and knowing the coach?
Missy: It is so wonderful, to know both Teri and (assistant coach) Kristen Cunnane, because she is tremendous and a big part of their success, as Teri and anyone else would tell you. That mood the staff set for us in London was so important to us, because it brought us so close together. Plus, Teri is just flat-out hysterical, and Kristen is an unbelievable person too.
14. Will you still focus on the backstroke and freestyle – it seems like usually it’s the other way around, that freestyle comes first and then the backstroke?
Missy: Well, if that’s the case and my freestyle comes up like that, it would (laughs) be great. I think we will see what happens. Teri will definitely keep up my freestyle at Cal, and improve my strokes. Working on both of them… I actually get a lot more freestyle than backstroke work at practice. But I still have so much to learn, and the time to learn in it, so it will be awesome.
15. I saw a video of you and Frank Busch dancing and everyone on the team going nuts – what was that about?
Missy: Frank is absolutely incredible, and did such a great job with our team. The entire staff was, in fact, incredible this past summer. There are no athletic performances like we had without a staff that performed like that; they were there the whole time for us with advice and direction, but also to have fun.
16. And the dancing with Frank caught on film came from that?
Missy: Haha! Yes! The training camps were fun, and the thing you were referring to was when we were in Tennessee. The pool in Knoxville was awesome and we had some fun training. Someone who had this huge, beautiful home was very generous to host us, and there was a live band. Well, everyone was telling me I had to dance, so I made Frank dance – and did you see how he could bust a move! That was just great. That was just one of the many, many great moments of what this team, and the experiences with that incredible staff, were about for us all. A lot of great memories with a lot of great people.
17. The practices were intense, yet so was the relaxing – in that you all really enjoyed each other – is there a lesson there?
Missy: Absolutely, yes: Because of that, I really understand now why it’s so important to be happy, supportive and comfortable on a team
18. Your dress at Golden Goggles, was made by your cousin – how fun was that?
Missy: It was the best. She made it. She was freaking me out. That morning, she was like, “I just have a couple more things to do, and have to finish sewing some stuff.” But it turned out great, and it was so nice of her. Plus, she did a great job.
19. What did you think of Golden Goggles?
Missy: The whole night was perfect. Golden Goggles is so much fun because you get to see everyone again, these incredible people who mean so much to me and I am so fortunate to learn from all of them, my friends, and have them in my life. I just love right after a big meet like that, to be able to come together again and catch up, and listen to everyone’s stories.
20. You all from that relay – Dana, Schmitty, Rebecca – holding hands before the award, and being so happy for Allison when she won something – that was the most real affection and care in the world among the group, wasn’t it?
Missy: It really was, but it really is that way among this whole team, with these great friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime. Like Dana said, the team really did call our relay the “Smiley Crew,” and nothing had changed at all – we were all smiling again at Golden Goggles. Whenever we’re around each other, we just can’t help but be that happy!
Next week, Missy breaks down what happened at Trials and takes us through a couple of her more memorable swim moments in London in Part II.