One-on-one with Missy Franklin | by Debra Melani|photos Mike Lewis

Missy Franklin Colorado's Olympic gold swimmer

Posted on Fri, Jan 29, 2016

Whether you are a rising teenage swimming star, a parent of a dedicated athlete, or simply someone in need of some positive words and inspiration, a recent interview with Colorado’s own Olympic champion offers a little bit of something for everyone.

Missy Franklin, who began begging her parents to let her join swim club at age 4 (swimmers had to be 5), says her success as an athlete has translated into all areas of her life.

Did swimming always come first in the Franklin household?

Mike Lewis photographyWhen I was growing up, I did swimming, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, skiing, ice-skating, gymnastics and dance. I did everything. I’m so grateful for that, because it gave me so many different experiences. I tried it all, and swimming was what I really cared about, and with that attitude moving forward, it was easy for me, because when it got hard or when there were days that I didn’t want to go to practice, it was easy to remind myself, like, you chose this. This is what brought you the most joy. But growing up, it was always school first and making sure that I always had my homework done. I’m so grateful for that, too.

You chose to stay in Colorado for school and friends, which drew some criticism, is that right?

Yeah. So I had been doing really well and breaking national age group records, and we started to have different parents and different coaches come up to us and say, ‘What are you still doing here? Colorado is not a swimming state. Go to California. Go to Florida. Go to Texas. And my parents knew me, and they knew if I wasn’t going to be happy, that that wasn’t going to transfer well to the pool. So they said: You know, her friends are here. We’re here. This is her home. This is where she wants to be, and right now it’s working. Why would we change when she’s doing so well? I think in my individual case, moving would have been really hard, because I think I would have started to resent swimming a little bit because of how much it would have made me give up if I did have to leave my friends, my school, my home. But, you know that’s not the case for everyone.

When and how did you first realize the back stroke was your stroke?

Probably around 2011, because when I qualified for trials in 2008, I didn’t qualify for any backstroke events, which a lot of people don’t realize. So a lot changed in those years. I think it’s just something that naturally develops, and that’s why I love to encourage people not to specialize too early in their career. You know, it kills me when I hear young teenagers saying, “Oh, I’m a freestyler,” because they are so young, and you never really know. So I would encourage them, while it’s OK to have favorite strokes and favorite events, to still work on strokes that may not be their strong suit, because I think that’s going to overall make a big difference in their athleticism and swimming career.

What’s your best high school (Regis Jesuit) memory?

Missy Franklin, Mike Lewis PhotographyOh my gosh, sophomore year, winning state. It was amazing. I think (Cherry) Creek had won for 26 years at that point. I think it was special because of how much it meant to my teammates, too. That’s where I really got my understanding of what being on a team was like. High school is kind of a whole other level of being on a team, because when you compete, the main reason you are competing is to get points for your team. Like, it doesn’t matter what your time is, as long as you’re touching before the person next to you. And that’s what made me want to swim in college so much, because I knew that was going to be amplified by 100, and I just had such an incredible team experience.

Where do you put your allegiance: yourself, your time, your teammates, your coach?

I think the majority of your allegiance does have to be to yourself. I think that you have to learn how to use your resources, but at the end of the day, you are the one who determines how hard you tried. So the most important thing is to believe in yourself and to work hard for yourself, but also use what you have around you to make you better. Your teammates are your most amazing resource for inspiration, for motivation. So I encourage swimmers to not only take that support from their teammates, but to give it. And then the coaches are a huge resource. So listening to what they are telling you and really making it an effort to implement that into your swimming. And using your parents’ support. It’s such a team effort. It falls on you to use everything that you have around you to make you better.

You’ve been quoted as saying that swimming made you who you are today. Who is Missy Franklin?

A swimmer (pauses; then laughs). No. My parents, they always did an amazing job with helping me understand that despite where I went in my swimming career and no matter how much success I had with it, that I’m so much more than just a swimmer. I am so grateful for everything that swimming has taught me, but it’s because of what swimming has taught me that has made me a better daughter, a better friend, a better teammate, a better student. It’s what I’ve been able to take away from this sport and apply to every other aspect of my life that has helped me grow in so many different ways, and that’s what’s most important to me, because I would so much rather be remembered at the end of my career as the person that I was instead of the times that I had in the pool.

What would you do with a day that could not involve swimming?

Oh my gosh, I would sleep (laughs). I would probably bake. I love to bake. I would read FOR SURE. My favorite thing to do is snuggle up by the fire and drink tea and read a good book, and I could probably do that for the whole day, so that’s probably it.

What’s your workout routine like?

It really depends on what season I’m in, what meets are coming up. But I do weights three times a week, and then hot yoga two times a week, and then I train 10 times a week for two hours.

What are your top nutrition rules?

Making sure I’ m fueling my body in the best possible way. Nutrition in itself is its own form of training, because if I’m putting in all this work in the pool and then coming home and having a really unhealthy meal, I’m physically taking away all the work that I had done earlier in the day. It’s kind of frustrating for me when I tell people how much I train, and they say: Oh, then you can eat anything. I hear it so much. It’s just like: No, absolutely not. I eat multiple times a day with really healthy foods that I know are going to sustain my energy level and that are going to be full of protein so my muscles recover and so forth.

What do you like most about Colorado?

I love the Rocky Mountains. I love the weather. I’m such a snow girl.

Do you ski?

I did, but I had to stop because it’s so easy to injure yourself. But the first thing I’m going to do after next summer is grab a pair of skis and go up on the slopes, because I miss it so much.

What are your goals for Rio next summer?

Missy Franklin USA Swimming FoundationI really don’t have any right now. I’m actually not thinking about that quite yet. I have five or six more meets before that, so there’s a lot that I need to be focusing on right now. Because I’m a strong believer that if I put all my energy and focus into something that’s 10 months away, I’m really going to miss out on the opportunities that are right in front of me to learn and get better. And if I miss out on those, it’s really going to affect my performance. Whereas, if I’m present and focused on what I’m doing now, and that’s all I’m thinking about, the amount of improvement I’m going to have before I get to the big goal is going to be so much better than if all I’m focusing on is that.

Are kids and marriage anywhere in your future?

Oh my gosh, absolutely. Anyone who knows me knows that. I think my two greatest successes, no three, in life are going to be being a good daughter, being a good wife, and being a good mom. That for me is just like the perfect trifecta.

Debbie Hesse, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation

Attitude of a champ
“Missy just has one of the best attitudes I’ve ever seen in any athlete. She has a light that shines from her, and she’s incredibly genuine. She is present in each moment in life, and she has a really strong support system with her dad, Dick, and her mom, D.A. It’s just hard to describe how special she is.”
̶ Debbie Hesse, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation


  1. […] a grainy family video, Missy Franklin’s dad tapes his toddler ̶ decked out in short, pink overalls and a denim-blue bonnet ̶ as she […]

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