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Swimmer Missy Franklin qualifies for a record seventh Olympic event

Franklin, 17, wins the 200-meter backstroke at U.S. Olympic trials and will compete in more events at one Olympics than any other female swimmer in U.S. history.

July 01, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Missy Franklin, left, talks to Elizabeth Beisel after the 200-meter backstroke final at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on Saturday in Omaha.
Missy Franklin, left, talks to Elizabeth Beisel after the 200-meter backstroke… (Mark Humphrey / Associated…)

OMAHA -- To make history at the same time your high school course load still includes history is rather impressive.

And to do all that amid the pressure of NBC anointing you as America's newest swimming superstar … well, Missy Franklin has a word for that.

"Amazing," she said.

Never before had an American woman qualified to swim seven events in the Olympic Games. The record is so impressive you might forget Franklin is 17, at least until she tells you her most immediate plans when she returns home to Colorado.

"See my dog, cuddle with him, see my parents," Franklin said.

Franklin won the 200-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday, securing her seventh and final spot in London. She is set to swim in the 100 and 200 backstroke, the 100 and 200 freestyle and all three relays.

No American woman has won more than five medals in one Olympics.

"When I think of my biggest dream, it would be competing in the Olympics in as many events as I possibly can," Franklin said, "and I think I achieved that this week, so accomplishing that biggest dream at this age is so exciting, and I couldn't be happier."

Franklin was not the youngest American woman to qualify Sunday. That would be Katie Ledecky, 15, the winner of the 800 freestyle.

Michael Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, heartily endorsed the addition of all those giggles, all those squeals, and all that jumping up and down and crying to the U.S. team.

"That's awesome to see, and I think it's going to be amazing for us to have on the team that level of excitement," said Phelps, 27. "I don't want to call myself 'old,' but for the old guys we will be able to use their energy and get a little more fired up."

Todd Schmitz, who coaches Franklin, said he handed his star swimmer a spreadsheet last August, with daily training and racing schedules through the Olympic Games. The seven events were on the spreadsheet, but not the fact that no American woman ever had done that.

"I'm a swim nerd through and through," Schmitz said, "but we never had that conversation."

Franklin developed a relative immunity to pressure by maintaining a normal teenage life, according to Schmitz. She completed her junior year of high school, hung out with friends and competed on the high school team rather than withdrawing from the spring semester to focus on Olympic training.

"A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy," Schmitz said. "She probably didn't even think about trials until the end of May, after her finals were over. I really think that helped her manage the energy and the excitement."

Elizabeth Beisel, 19, who qualified for a second Olympic event by finishing second to Franklin in the 200 backstroke, said she marveled at Franklin's poise in the national — soon to be international — spotlight.

"She's under a lot of pressure," Beisel said. "She handles it like she's 25 and she's been doing it for years."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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