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Franklin Set For Seven Events In London

Jul 1, 2012  - Craig Lord

US Olympic Trials, Omaha, Day 7:

Women's 200m backstroke

Miss(y) Phelps is what they called her in Berlin last year when she set the world s/c record during the world cup series. Now it all seems more real: the 17-year-old coached by Todd Schmitz in Colorado, will race seven events at London 2012, every one of them a medal-prospect moment.

She completed the picture with a 2:06.12 victory in the 200m backstroke, the time the best in the world this year and the third fastest of Franklin's career. Victory in what was an all-teenage line-up barring one swimmer, was secured by the half-way point, a 1:01.46 turn 0.29sec outside her world-textile-best pace and too hot for the rest to handle.

The second US berth went to 400IM world champion Elizabeth Beisel, on 2:07.58, that locking out Elizabeth Pelton, on 2:08.06.

If the winning time was not as sharp as some had expected, it is one that makes her a strong contender for gold - and it came at the end of a week in which she has tried out a schedule most swimmers would not dream of even contemplating. 

The splits compared:

  • 2012: 29.99; 1:01.46; 1:33.53; 2:06.12 Melissa Franklin (USA) Omaha trials
  • 2011: 29.43; 1:01.15; 1:33.24; 2:05.10 Melissa Franklin (USA) world textile best 
  • 1991: 30.55; 1:02.34; 1:34.79; 2:06.62 Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN) WR Athens 1991
  • 2009: 29.44; 1:00.91; 1:32.81; 2:04.81 Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) WR Rome 2009

Franklin's effort means that she becomes the third US swimmer to take on seven or more events at the London 2012 Games 40 years after Mark Spitz's pioneering moment of seven out of seven.

Olympic great of 1976 John Naber described them as "cool under pressure… people who become animals when the gun goes off". Franklin will take on the 100m and 200m freestyle and the 100m backstroke, the latter in the world's best time this year. She then has three relays to go at, all potential medal-winning moments.

"I'm so excited to be racing seven events at the Olympics. Its been a wonderful week for me," said Franklin.

Russian Anastasia Zueva's 2:06.59 had stood at the helm of world rankings since April, while the two fastest times ever in textile suit are Franklin's 2:05.10 and 2:05.90, respectively from the final and the semi at the world championships lats year in Shanghai.

Asked how seven events sounded, Franklin said: "It sounds absolutely amazing. I am so thrilled to be able to compete in seven events, definitely my biggest dream. I never thought I would be able to accomplish it, but the fact that it's done, it's made it the hard work worth it, and I'm thrilled with seeing what's going to happen this summer."

Before trials Franklin said she did not think she would accomplish her target of seven. She was asked why and whether she had felt flustered at any particular point.

"I have been flustered all week," she said. "I think just because when I think of my biggest dream it would be competing in the Olympics in as many events as I possibly can, 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."

"This whole week has been an emotional roller coaster," she added. "There have been ups and downs with seeing people make the team that you really wanted to and people who didn't that you really wanted to, so it's definitely been up and down, but I think we have done a good job of keeping our emotions under control and conserving our energy and it's nice to be done and have a few days."

The circumstances of the trials had helped her to handle the load. "I think just having a lot of downtime between prelims and finals was huge," she said. "We had a lot of time, and it was nice to go back to the hotel, put on a movie and not think about what was going on over here. It helped us feel like there was an outside world happening while we were here. 

"Whenever you're at a meet it feels like it's just you and everyone there. Todd and I did a little Starbucks run the other day because we realized we had been outside once since we'd been to Omaha, which is a bit of an issue, so got some fresh air and went out. Just keeping it really relaxed."

July 1 is the day college coaches are allowed to weigh in with recruitment pitches. Franklin's decision to go to college after London 2012 has mean forfeiting hundreds of thousands of dollars in endorsements and prizes. If she wins big time in London she will have to set aside any potential financial rewards that would have accrued were she to have declared herself pro. Franklin is one of the most-sought after recruits. 

"I haven't even checked my phone, so I'm not sure [whether colleges have called], but none of the college coaches have come up to me and talked to me about colleges. They have all come up and said, 'Congratulations. We're excited to see you this summer', so it's been awesome to have their support and know that they're behind me," said Franklin.

"I think for college swimming, the biggest part, like I've said 100 times is being part of it and getting to know my sisters and brothers and whatever other teammates that I have that we become close and we have that bond that lasts forever. I think everyone here can say that their college friends have been with them their whole life, and I think teammates reinforce that and you do everything together, and that's what I'm looking forward to."

Asked what she would fine-tine on the way to London, she replied: "We definitely need to work on getting out there my first 50, really just having no worries and just not thinking and going out there and racing. I think we can definitely work on that. There are smaller things that we can work on, but probably in the next few days Todd and I will sit down and go over all the things, even the little things that we can work on the next weeks in training camp, and I think it will be exciting."

There are programmes in the world where working with the Omega blocks that will be used for backstroke in London is a daily habit. Not for Franklin. "We will have an Omega [block] to train on for backstroke starts, which will be awesome, get to work on those, so things to look forward to about getting better and getting excited for the summer," said Franklin.

Freestyle and butterfly is a combination far more common among world-classs swimmers. Striking the right balance between those two things is sometimes tricky, freestyle on, 'fly off, 'fly on, freestyle off. No such troubles for Franklin, who screwed up her face as if to say "what is he talking about".

Schmitz said: " I would say she has been a freestyler and backstroker her whole career. I think the exciting thing is that Missy and I both walk out of Olympic Trials with phase one of our plan in the books, and her and I both know we can dial in a lot of things that weren't necessarily hitting 100 per cent this week.

The name Olympic Trials is truly the best name for this meet. It's not called a swim meet, it's called Trials, because it's a trial. You watch every night and see the swims that happen and the swims that don't happen, and it's an emotional rollercoaster each day. I said I truly feel we will be relaxed in London because the work is done and now we get to enjoy it, like last summer at Worlds you aren't worrying what the person next to you is doing, you just get out there and race and get your hand on the wall first."