Olympic 100m and 200m backstroke champion Missy Franklin, of Colorado, set a US junior record on her return to the limelight on the first night of the Minneapolis Grand Prix. The time, 1:42.28 in the 200 yards freestyle, means little to a world that left yards behind long ago but, suffice not to say, any US record in the pool indicates a world-class effort.
The meet at at the University of Minnesota, is the first stop in the 2012-2013 USA Swimming Grand Prix Series and Franklin national age record for 17-18 girls (she's still 17) left her four seconds ahead of next home: Dagny Knutson, of the Gators, clocked 1:46.70, her mere presence a hearty footnote in a tale of personal struggle against an eating disorder and the woes that accompany such things, while Chloe Sutton finished third in 1:47.20.
Franklin, a five times medal winner at London 2012 (4x100 medley and 4x200 free gold; 4x100m free bronze), recently chose college (at the University of California in Berkeley - Cal - with coach Teri McKeever from autumn 2013) over cash under NCAA rules and will have to set aside any financial rewards she would have been able to claim from such meets as world cups, domestic grand prix and even Olympic bonanzas that will surely come her way one day.
The schoolgirl is pragmatic, telling AP: "Someday, I would love more than anything to be a professional swimmer, but right now I just want to do it because I love it. Being part of a college team is something that's so special." Expect a few college standards to tumble when Franklin's college days dawn next year.
One of the most sought-after recruits in college swimming history in the US, Franklin's choice was an obvious one given the experience she had with the US head women's coach at London 2012. McKeever played a blinder, her approach noted in myriad interviews given by American swimmers (women and men) as having been a breath of fresh air, particularly in terms of how to handle team sororities - not always an easy exercise yet often vital to squad-wide outcomes.
"That was a huge advantage that I got to be able to work with my college coach before I actually went there," Franklin told AP at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. "Because a lot of people don't have that opportunity. I went on my recruiting trip, and the team was so amazing. Just being with those girls, I really felt like I belonged there. The campus itself is gorgeous. Everything about it was just perfect."
Franklin revealed that she had wanted to commit to a full four seasons of swimming for Cal but mum and dad had told her that might be "the biggest financial mistake" she could make. The date for turning pro has, therefore, been set at 2015, in time for a 2016 Rio Olympics campaign.
"This can pay for your future family. This can pay for your kids' school, things that I really have to think about," Franklin said. "So that's been the hard part."
And just where all the focus needs to be is the place long identified by Todd Schmitz, the Colorado coach who has guided Franklin since she was 7: "At the end of the day we've got to make sure we still get the work done in the pool. She doesn't mind signing autographs and all those things, but at some point you've got to make sure you're taking care of yourself."
Meanwhile, there's the fun rewards of success: The Glamour magazine Women of the Year ceremony on Monday in New York is followed by USA Swimming's Golden Goggle Awards in the same city a week later.
Talk of Missy Phelps and the targets of the future started before she'd even taken the plunge at London 2012. Franklin has long been wise before her years and tells AP: "Honestly anything can happen. You can't predict the future, so whatever God has in store for me I'll just go along with it."
Another aiming for Rio is a man with his own growing Olympic treasury, Ryan Lochte. At the grand prix, the lead Gator took the 200y free in 1:35.15 after overhauling Denmark’s Mads Gleaner, second in 1:35.69, third place going to Bobby Bollier in 1:37.86. Lochte claimed his second victory later in the session with a 46.73 wein over 100y 'fly.
In other action, 14-year-old Becca Mann, fresh from a fine world cup tour with the US junior squad, finished 11sec ahead of the rest in the 400y IM in 4:10.29.