By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
In this second of two parts in a special 20 Question Tuesday, Missy Franklin takes us back to London, and how she came to many conclusions, among them, that no one should ever think finishing in the top 5 in the world is a disappointment!
1. One thing I want to ask you about first is Brickelle Bro, the Paralympian from Colorado who took fifth in the 400 at the Paralympic Games – but before the Olympics, she had to raise some funds, and you stepped up – what did that mean to you?
Missy: When I was in training camp for the Olympics, I heard that Brickelle Bro's neighborhood was hosting a fundraiser to assist her parents to get to London. I couldn't imagine going to the Olympics without my parents being there. It made me so sad. As I couldn't be there to support her, I asked my mom to go and donate a 30-minute private swim lesson from me. I was shocked to hear that it went for $1,750 to 13-year-old Dalton. The second highest bidder was $1,600, so I offered to give 10-year-old Caitlin a lesson too and they agreed! I was so thrilled to be able to assist Brickelle and her family with this $3,350."
2. You had a great Olympics with four golds and a bronze – how did you feel about the fourth place in the 200 free and fifth in the 100 free?
Missy: You know, I had sort of been prepared for that just by the circumstances; Ryan (Lochte) had gotten fourth in the 200 IM, and I had done a press conference by coincidence. Someone asked me a question about how it must’ve been pretty disappointing for Ryan. And I was like, “He just got fourth at the Olympics, I don’t think that’s a disappointment.”
3. And then it turned around and you had the same question?
Missy: The next day I was fourth in the 200 free, and it was just an act of God to have that work out that way, so of course I was asked the same (laughs) question!
4 And what was your answer?
Missy: I just said that of course everyone wants to medal, but to get fourth at the Olympics is a great accomplishment and I was very proud of it. To have it happen the next day, right after Ryan’s, really put me in the right mindset to handle something like that. And you know, even though you want to medal, those fourth and fifth places made me want to focus on developing my freestyle. So it’s something I will learn from, and it will make me better.
5. How about your backstroke at the Games?
Missy: I was so happy. Talking about the backstroke, I can’t even put it into words. For the past couple of years, I have called myself a backstroker, and kind of said that I am a backstroker. But I still consider myself a freestyler, too. I am still way too young to be considered a specialist, and it’s great to be able to swim both of these at competition.
6. You feel like there is improvement in the backstroke?
Missy: There’s always room for improvement in anything, and that is my favorite part of swimming, trying to be perfect. I was happy with my backstroke, and even though I know my freestyle isn’t yet where my backstroke is, I’m pretty happy with my freestyle, too.
7. Which do you work more in practice?
Missy: I work a lot more on my freestyle than my backstroke in practice. And I still have so much time to learn, so that is awesome.
8. So what was London like?
Missy: Oh my gosh, I had the time of my life in London. I had so much fun.
9. How about going in that short turnaround from the 200 free to the 100 back?
Missy: You know, that story, about how it was just 14 minutes, is one of my favorites parts about the Games now! Now whenever I have a double I can laugh and say, “Well, I have had worse.” And it was kind of fun. I always think back to that when things are rough with whatever I am facing and know, “I can handle this. Compared to London, this will be a piece of cake.” It worked out perfectly.
10. Still, that’s a lot of legs to use isn’t it?
Missy: Right, and I know I had to do the best I could to conserve my legs. I knew I had to qualify for the final. It’s hard because, you know, it’s the Olympics, so you don’t conserve anything! To race and be thinking about conserving is so hard because I am such a competitor. But you just to listen to your body, and remember that the 100 back was coming up. What a blessing, to learn so much about myself as an athlete, get the place in the final, and go back out there in the 200 free.
11. I sat with Todd at Golden Goggles, and learned that you two had thought about tweaking the program?
Missy: We had talked about dropping that 200 (free), but a chance to be in the final at the Olympics and maybe medal is just too much to sacrifice in that situation. Yes, it’s a big risk, but it’s also a big reward. And you put in all that training and hard work.
12. So Todd left it up to you?
Missy: He did. He said, “If you want to, scratch it (the 200 free), but I know you can do it.” I said, “You know what, I think I can do it. And I want to.” So I dove into the diving well between races – FINA was very nice to let me do that – and went to the ready room. I was not stressed out at all – I was having so much fun! I just kept smiling, and was excited. I remember Emily Seebohm had broken the Olympic record in the 100 back semifinals, and I was really excited to go out and race her.
13. How did U.S. women’s coach Teri McKeever prepare the women’s team, and what was it like in London with that group?
Missy: There was so much “good” in London, and the city itself – the people, the volunteers, the officials – were just the best you could ever imagine. As far as the team, Teri did an awesome job before the Games started with the women, having previous Olympians tell the rookies about their experiences.
14. What was the takeaway from that talk with the veterans?
Missy: That it is not always perfect, that things will not always workout like you think, but you still do the best you can. I remember hearing about how in Beijing the buses were really crowded, and some swimmers had to rush or change warm-ups. You prepare the best you can, but you have to expect something to come up, and you just deal with it.
15. You said London was special, do you have additional thoughts?
Missy: London was just beautiful. The Village itself was amazing, and the dining hall like a Costco (laughs) on steroids. The rooms and beds were great. The food was from all around the world, and was just amazing. Even the transportation was outstanding.
16. Take us back further, how did you get through Olympic Trials with all that pressure?
Missy: I think I had a lot of mental preparation for Trials. I had heard for so many years that the meet was so high pressured, that I wanted to change that for myself and make it as much fun as possible, like I would have at any other meet. And I did have fun at trials – though I have to admit it’s a huge sigh of relief to see a “1” or a “2” by your name! It’s just such an emotional event.
17. The big deal is, if possible, punching a ticket early in the meet, right?
Missy: I was lucky with the 100 back to have made the team in the first few days, but I still knew there was a lot more I wanted to do – but having made the team, I did not have that same amount of pressure on me. The pressure for me was watching my other friends and teammates and cheering for them, being so excited when they did make it, and being super-supportive but sad if they did not. I think honestly for me, as soon as I made that team, I knew there was lot more I wanted to do but a big part of that was being there for my friends.
18. That time in France – a magical set of circumstances?
Missy: I honestly describe Vichy as a vacation to everyone who asks about it – even though we trained and trained hard. The pool we were at is now one of my favorites ever, this gorgeous outside pool with a huge waterslide that we treated ourselves to at the end of each practice – I probably went down it two to four times after each session. And where we were was perfect, just a block away from all these stores, shopping and French cafes. So we’d go have our workout, and have the rest of the day to relax in the hotel or at these amazing French cafés. It was such a nice, relaxing time between such stressful periods – the Olympics Trials and Olympic Games. I think that really helped everyone recharge their batteries. You recover from Trials, and then you get so excited, but then you get tired of waiting, so by the end of training camp, everyone was really excited for London, and really antsy. I was able to really maintain that relaxed vibe.
19. What about the Call me Maybe video that you and Lauren Perdue, and the entire team, got so much attention for?
Missy: You know, it was so much fun. The entire team had such a great time with that. We literally did that the last two days in Vichy. We were there for at least a week, and we had talked about it the whole time, but then we realized, “We are leaving in two days, we have to start filming!” Two days before we left, we just filmed everything we did. It was so much fun.
20. To have your breakthrough Games with Lochte and Phelps, and Natalie – I mean, I know the pressure must have been huge on you, but still to have the greatest swimmer and athlete in the history of sports, plus two of the other top swimmers in Olympic history, what did that mean to you?
Missy: Oh, it was such a blessing. Being on Olympic team with Natalie and Ryan, and to be on an Olympic team with Michael Phelps? Are you kidding me? It’s like a dream and more. To see Michael at the end, so emotional, as he became the greatest Olympian of all time. Watching how incredible he is. I know what he has done for our sport – and for me – and he has opened it up to all of these people. Because of him, we were able to do what we did. What he did was show the world how great athletes are and how great our sport is. He set the future of swimming on a great path, and everyone – myself very much included – is grateful to Michael, and very proud of him!