- Wayne Drehs
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OMAHA, Neb. -- Dick Franklin didn't know what to say. He and his wife, DA, had given their teenage daughter one goal at this week's U.S. swimming trials: have fun.
They told her to smile, be her goofy self and enjoy the moment. They would be just as thrilled if she made the team in a relay as they would if she made it in multiple events. And if something catastrophic happened and she didn't make it at all, they would love her all the same.
But Missy Franklin did the anti-choke. The girl who just turned 17 years old, who this fall will enter her senior year of high school, was the brightest female star of the week here. She is not yet old enough to vote. Two months ago, she attended her junior prom. Yet Dick Franklin's only daughter has qualified to swim in more events in London (seven) than any American woman ever has.
"It's over the top," Dick Franklin said. "How can you describe that? To say that about your 17-year-old daughter is surreal, you know? I don't have the words to describe that. It's just unbelievable."
Missy's week of chaos began with a win in the 100-meter backstroke Wednesday, when she set the American record at 58.85 seconds. She followed with second-place finishes in the 200 freestyle Thursday and 100 freestyle Saturday. And then on Sunday night in the 200 backstroke, her favorite event, she smoked the competition by more than a second, turning in a time of 2:06.12, the fastest 200 back in the world this year.
Afterward, when in-house announcer Summer Sanders told her she was the first American woman to qualify for seven events, a stunned Franklin replied, "Really?"
"The whole week has gone really well, just as well as I could have asked for," she said later. "I can't believe I have seven events. It's so overwhelming and exciting at the same time."
Franklin's coach, Todd Schmitz, gave much of the credit to Franklin for refusing to be content after she had initially made the team Wednesday night.
"She's a true gamer," Schmitz said. "I was very impressed at how she was able to just keep rolling. That's awesome. You see a lot of people make that first spot and then they're almost kind of satisfied. She was relieved, she wasn't satisfied."
Schmitz played a part in that. On Wednesday night, Dick Franklin said Schmitz ended the going-to-London celebration with mom and dad after about 10 minutes.
"He was the one mature one who realized we had five more days of swimming to do," Dick said. "He just said, 'That's it. You guys have to get out of here. Time for bed.'"
On Sunday night, after a U.S. Swimming media representative ended a Franklin interview by saying she needed to leave to celebrate, Schmitz joked, "Yeah, celebrate with an 8 a.m. workout."
As eye-opening as Franklin's performance was in the water, she has been just as extraordinary on land. She HAs handled the pressure of swimming at an emotional roller coaster of a meet with the grace and poise of someone 10 years older. The 300-plus media contingent has peppered her with questions about pressure and expectations, and each time she has repeated the same answer: All of her support helps eliminate the pressure.
Now, of course, comes the challenge of replicating this success in London. Schmitz appears unfazed.
"We've already performed here," he said. "This is the most pressure-cooking environment I've ever been in, and she did fantastic. She's got the confidence now. We're going to fine tune a few things, and her and I both know in a few weeks we can get faster."
Missy Franklin isn't done with high school. She's not old enough to vote. But she pulled off one of the biggest feats at trials, qualifying for more events in London than any American woman ever has.