Missy Franklin, the bubbly break-out star of the 2012 Olympics, is headed to Rio with pared down expectations and a new appreciation for the pressures stardom can bring.
Franklin was the first US woman to swim seven events in a single Games in 2012 and counted four gold medals among the five she took home.
Four years on, the 21-year-old arrived at trials grappling with the demands of her new professional status, as well as a string of disappointing results stretching all the way back to 2014 — when she injured her back in a backstroke start at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia.
She crashed and burned in the 100m backstroke, finishing seventh to miss out on a chance to defend a title she won in London.
Her confidence shaken, she was thrilled to finish second in the 200m free and secure an individual berth, and on Saturday she gave herself a chance to defend the 200m backstroke gold she captured four years ago with a runner-up finish to Maya DiRado.
“One of the things I’ve been trying to do this whole year is not compare myself to where I was in 2012,” said Franklin, who set a 200m back world record en route to gold in London.
“I came here to be the best of who I am right now, not the best of who I was four years ago.
“So to get two individual spots and a relay spot, of course I’m happy with that. to be on the team in three events is great.”
Franklin, who failed to reach the final of the 100m free, said her tough trials had taught her a lot about dealing with heightened expectations — something that didn’t seem to faze her when she was a fresh-faced 17-year-old who still took time out from elite racing to compete for her high school team just for the fun of it.
“I don’t think that all kind of hit me until I got here,” said Franklin, who finally reached out to her mother when she was having trouble sleeping and her former University of California team-mates when she just needed to get her mind off things.
“I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is it’s OK to ask for help,” Franklin said. “Whatever is going to help you be the best that you can be, it’s OK to ask for that.” – Agence France-Presse