While I lived in Denver, I often overlapped with Missy Franklin in the pool—the Stars would be getting out as masters got in, or we shared pool time—so I had the honor and pleasure of getting to know her, and to see some of her training and races leading up to both London and Rio.
I think this proximity led me to follow her career more closely than other current swimmers. It also led me to speculate much more about her condition heading into Rio, because while I saw that Missy was as bubbly, hard working, and considerate of others* as ever, she never got back to the level of “crispness” she had in the pool prior to London. I was worried and concerned, especially due to the added mountain of returning-gold-medalist pressure she faced.
This familiarity, in combination with her Trials and Rio results, made me anticipate the release of her book, Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion, (Missy, D.A., and Dick Franklin with Daniel Paisner, 2016) more than most. I wasn’t sure how much time the book would cover, but I hoped to learn more—why she chose Cal, was/is she truly happy there, was McKeever a good coach choice, what exactly is wrong with her back, was swimming two years collegiate then going pro the best pathway, and more on her decision to move back to Colorado to train (although I totally understand taking a year off from classes to train for the Games.)
I won’t spoil any reveals from the book here, but I will say this—I got all of my answers, and Missy was very brave, honest, and humorous while sharing the “back story.” I wasn’t sure how it’d work to have three people “speaking” (Missy, her mother, her father), but this narration ploy was never distracting or confusing. Rather, as Missy noted, it’d would have been boring to spend a lot of time on race recaps because that’s already been covered to death by the media, but it was refreshing to hear her parents’ perspectives on the same events, and some of their own amusing adventures on the deck and beyond.
In conclusion, I’m relieved to know that Missy does in fact, love being a Cal student. My hope for her right now is that she can allow herself to back off from heavy training for a bit in favor of being a student, finding the fun in the water again, and developing a maintenance plan to keep her back healthy. Sure, I’d love to see her crush it in Tokyo—it’s certainly possible if she chooses (and I entirely understand if she feels she has “unfinished business” in the Olympic arena)—but hopefully that’s not a focus for her right now. And, if she chooses to retire before the next Games, I’m confident she’ll be fine. (Knowing what I do about her, I’ve always thought that out of the majority of Olympic-caliber swimmers, she’s the most well balanced and grounded with a promising non-swim career of her choice ahead). Certainly, she’s already accomplished so much, and so gracefully, to always be a wonderful ambassador and role model for the sport.
*On a blazing hot outdoor LCM training day (near 100 degrees, at altitude, right before noon), Missy saw a coach’s toddler knock over my water bottles, spilling all the water and electrolytes I had on me that day. Without saying a word, she got out of the pool and grabbed two ice-cold water bottles from their team cooler and placed them behind my block. Thanks, Missy! Also, a shout-out here for Stars coach Todd Schmitz who was unfailingly welcoming and kind—he’d consolidate his swimmers to offer us a lane or two whenever possible affording us precious extra pool time and always took an interest in our training and results.