In Part II -- and we’ll have a special Part III 20 Question EXTRA with Missy on Thursday -- Missy Franklin catches fans up on how she dealt with what she calls her “disappointment” in Rio -- and how it has led to one of the greatest periods of development in her young adult life. She mentions how being Michael Phelps’ teammate for a second time was different from the first. Missy also explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday why this year’s U.S. competing at Worlds is among the best collection of not just swimmers, but people anywhere in the world.
1. We talked about Katie Ledecky (in last week’s 20 Question Tuesday), but what impresses you most about her the past year?
Missy: It’s almost impossible to describe what she’s doing or the amount of pride Katie makes me feel. She is dominating so gracefully and eloquently -- how many people in any sport can you ever say that about? She continues to have this wonderful attitude. The sheer level she is at as an athlete is even hard for us in the swimming community to explain.
2. I love seeing kids around her -- reminds me of you in fact, and isn’t that huge for swimming as a sport and lifestyle?
Missy: What Katie’s doing for women’s swimming in the U.S., and in the world, is going to be felt for years and years to come. Her gift will keep giving back to this country and this sport for decades and everyone will remember not only her amazing accomplishments, but how she went about it, which is even more impressive.
3. Going back to Rio for a sec, I know you saw Anthony Ervin at Cal a lot -- what did him coming back 16 years later to win gold -- how proud were you as his friend seeing what went into it?
Missy: I love Tony Ervin to death. I learn something from him every time I talk to him -- every time he speaks. His Olympics were so incredible. He shattered boundaries anyone can ever put on themselves.
4. Isn’t that a great aspect of sport -- and in particularly, swimming -- when Tony does something like that and all of the sudden Dads and Moms who remember him get all excited about it?
Missy: There are so many times where someone will think I can’t do this or I can’t do that, and someone can point out to them, look at Tony Ervin and then tell me you won’t go for it. He’s a perfect example. You need to put Maya DiRado in that class because no one would have predicted Maya’s performance except one person -- Maya.
5. That’s such a good way to put it because there’s no way she wins that backstroke unless she knew she could reach down into that well and do it -- so she really did know, you think?
Missy: Absolutely yes, she knew she could do it. And I bet her coach and (Stanford) teammates knew it too. But no one else outside that circle saw Maya stepping up like that in her last -- and first -- Olympics. But she knew where to look inside herself for what she needed. It’s all about breaking stereotypes, and breaking down barriers that we let hold us back.
6. In 2012, the world fell in love with you, and though Michael Phelps was making history, he didn’t seem then like he loved swimming anymore -- with that in mind, what did his Rio experience show you about him?
Missy: It was so much more about Michael Phelps the person than just his incredible swims and medals. To see him back on top was great, but seeing him happier was the greatest.
7. I first had lunch with Michael at the Olympic Training Center in 1999 and in all the years I have not seen the emotion I saw from him in Rio -- you noticed that, too?
Missy: It was so emotional for him, to leave it on the note competitively he wanted, but to leave as a person who loves his life and is ready for what is next in life as a husband and being Boomer’s father.
8. Though you and Michael’s paths are different, did you learn from Michael’s Rio experience and the circles it closed?
Missy: Going through what I did in Rio, I realize looking back that’s what I want for myself -- to go out on my terms, and to be able to see Michael accomplish that is great motivation for me.
9. You, Nathan, Ryan Murphy, Tony Ervin, all the Cal guys and Natalie Coughlin swim for Cal men’s coach and Olympic/Worlds Coach Dave Durden, how good of a fit is he for you, especially now?
Missy: Everything happens for a reason and that’s why Dave is the right coach at the right point in my career. There could not have been a better point in time or circumstances for something like this to happen for me. I could not be more grateful to have Dave as my coach.
10. What makes Coach Durden so effective?
Missy: Well, for starters -- and this is a big one “for starters” (laughs) -- he is one of the best human beings I have ever met in my life. He cares about us as people. That makes you want to work harder for him -- you want to make someone happy who makes you so happy. Training with him has been so special.
11. In an ironic twist -- which is one of the great things about swimming -- one of Katie Ledecky’s coaches, Yuri Suguiyama (from NCAP) is now one of your coaches at Cal, what’s that like and how does he work with Dave since replacing -- another irony -- Greg Meehan, who went to Cal to coach, among others, Katie Ledecky?
Missy: Yuri is such a talented coach. To get the combination of their talents is just so wonderful for us training with them. I’m looking forward to getting to the point where it’s pedal to the medal training for me, because I think they are the perfect coaches for me with where I am at now in my career.
12. Katie Meili is such a great person and has such a well-rounded story. I couldn’t track her down because it turns out she was applying to law school and all that goes into that. Knowing as an academic what she had to do for that, it makes what she did at Worlds even more impressive. What’s your take?
Missy: Katie Meili . I think that’s my favorite thing about Katie, she is capable of whatever she puts her mind to. At Worlds last week, she won gold (medley relay), silver (50 breast) and bronze (100 breast) while she was going through applying for law school and taking the LSAT (entrance exam). I admire that and respect it so much.
13. I thought it was great for Lilly King to have Katie there -- like their symbiotic relationship made each other not only better, but the respect for these two very different women made it mean more, if that makes sense?
Missy: For Katie to go out there thinking, “This is how the race is supposed go,” and then make the race go that way -- that is what I find so impressive from watching her swim. Races like the ones her and Lilly swam together are so inspiring. Katie Meili is probably one of the most well-rounded people I know.
14. You are already thinking about grad school, is that part of it?
Missy: It is, in that Katie’s passion goes far beyond swimming. So Katie inspires young people with both her swimming and her commitment to her school work -- going to Georgetown for Law School is such a challenge, and she did her undergraduate at an Ivy League, Columbia. So when people listen to Katie Meili, they know no matter what she’s doing she’s striving to reach new heights. For a long time I questioned if I’d be as passionate in other things as I am for swimming. In Katie Meili, young women -- and boys -- have a great role model.
15. Speaking of, you are back in school at Cal again right?
Missy: I was officially on campus in the spring but took classes last fall as well. I will be back in school this fall and I am so excited about it. The summer flew by. It’s been hard for sure, having to balance the things in my life -- which I’m very blessed to have.
16. And you’re also going to be swimming, so busier than ever again?
Missy: Once school starts, it’s going to be a little stressful, because I won’t have a free weekend until late October -- I’m literally traveling for “work” every weekend from the start of the semester until then. But I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m very blessed and thankful.
17. Understanding that it’s a challenge and you’ll have to have balance and sacrifices is half the battle though, right?
Missy: It’s hard, and there’s a lot on my plate, but the place I am now as a person and the people who surround me help me so much. I grew so much from last semester. My next goal is to walk (graduate) next spring with my psychology degree.
18. Everything I teach in social media, advertising and marketing now supersedes media theory and connects to psych theory and how people process messages and why they do things. What will you do with that degree?
Missy: I enjoy my classes so much and the things you mentioned -- that’s part of why I love it because there is so much you can do with it.
19. You must’ve drawn some inspiration from Worlds watching Matt Grevers -- people forget he went through something like this back in 2010 before making the team in 2012, being gold, and then not making the Rio team -- how much of an inspiration is Matt?
Missy: Oh my gosh, Yes he is! You have no idea! Watching Worlds, I was getting a little frustrated when people would say, “Oh, Matt is back.” In my mind, Matt Grevers never left. He still had an amazing Olympic Trials. Look at the field in the backstroke he was up against. It was tough that he couldn’t be with us last summer, but it didn’t stop him from working hard or limit his ambition. Matt Grevers isn’t “back” -- he never left!
20. Ironically, Jack Bauerle, in telling me about what a great leader you were for a Duel in the Pool, also mentioned Nathan Adrian and Matt, saying with you three on the team, he as coach didn’t have any worries about leadership -- Matt’s a special person, isn’t he?
Missy: Matt is very special to a lot of people, and you can start with (his wife) Annie (a former National teamer) and their adorable baby girl! Matt’s legacy in the backstroke is so impressive, and the whole group through the past decades in the men’s backstroke is quite a group. Having Matt up there is a perfect fit. The people on the U.S. World team in Budapest learned so much from Matt, both in the pool and as a person. The rookies and young’uns on that Worlds team will, for the rest of their lives, remember being on a team with Matt Grevers and the lessons they learned from him.