DENVER -- Missy Franklin’s life is in transition. But it’s hard to tell.
The bubbly 20-year-old swimmer is back home in Colorado after finishing exams at the University of California, Berkeley last week. Like a college kid home on summer vacation, she will spend the summer training with her former coach, Todd Schmitz, and her former team, the Colorado Stars.
She will “see how it goes and take it from there,” she said.
She called it an extremely difficult decision — “being away from my girls and being away from Teri,” she said, referring to her Cal teammates and coach Teri McKeever, who coached her to four individual NCAA titles.
“They were all so incredibly supportive of me doing what was best for me and what I felt like I really needed to do,” she said while speaking at the Association for Women in Sports Media Convention Monday.
Franklin recently turned pro and signed with IMG and agent Mark Ervin, who also represents skier Lindsey Vonn, among others. Although Franklin has yet to sign any endorsement contracts, the Denver Post reported that she is the fourth most marketable athlete in the world — ahead are Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard, Brazilian soccer star Neymar and Masters golf champion Jordan Spieth.
She did not reveal which companies are courting her. But she is considering the process carefully — yet with her trademark enthusiasm. She wants to align herself with brands that share her values and joie de vivre.
|Missy Franklin arrives for the 2014 Golden Goggle Awards at the Marriott Marquis Times Square on Nov. 24, 2014 in New York City.
“The companies that come to me know what they’re getting,” said the swimmer who’s known to dance behind the blocks before races, who punctuates her conversation with the word “incredible,” and who says that she rarely gets angry (unless deprived of enough food).
“They’ve seen me at meets, they’ve seen me dancing and goofing off and just being me,” she said. “So that’s already been a huge help in this process.”
In addition to tending to the business side of her career, Franklin has a packed schedule of swim meets. She plans to enter the Arena Pro Swim Series in Santa Clara, California, on June 18-21, 2015, then will travel to Croatia in July for a Team USA training camp prior to the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
At worlds, Franklin will swim seven events — four individual races and two relays — and is looking forward to defending the 4x200-meter freestyle world and Olympic titles with Katie Ledecky, who is more friend than rival.
“I remember when I first heard that (Katie and I were rivals), I looked at my mom and was like, ‘I do backstroke, she does distance, how is this a rivalry? I do not understand,’” said Franklin. “Then she started doing the 200 (freestyle). And it’s been awesome having her in that 200.”
Franklin is also excited about potentially adding two mixed relays to her world championship schedule. FINA added 4x100-meter medley and 4x100-meter freestyle mixed gender events, where teams of two men and two women compete, to the 2015 world championship program. Mixed relays are not yet part of the Olympic program.
But she acknowledged that swimming nine events would be a lot, even for someone with her energy level.
At the London 2012 Olympic Games, Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze. Then at the 2013 world championships, she added six gold medals to her collection. Can she do it again, possibly winning seven world championship gold medals this time?
“I like to say whatever Missy did once, Missy can do again better,” she said with a laugh.
Franklin is happy that Michael Phelps, whom she says is like a brother, is back. The 22-time Olympic medalist has helped her deal with pressure and expectations in the past. Franklin also received sage advice from Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.
“There are two ways you can look at outside expectations,” Bowman told her. “You can look at it as pressure. Or you can look at it as support, as these people who believe in you of doing something truly amazing.”
Franklin said that she had never thought about pressure in such positive terms.
After world championships, Franklin will meet a friend and her mom in Paris, where she will finally have a summer vacation before ramping up again for the 2016 Olympic Games. On her schedule this fall are several world cup meets in Europe.
“As scary as it is, Olympic Trials is going to be here before we know it,” she said, of the meet scheduled for June 26-July 3, 2016, in Omaha, Nebraska.
After the 2016 Rio Games, will she return to Cal?
“I still haven’t 100 percent decided yet,” she said. But eventually she would like to major in psychology and minor in education. Swimming, she said, will be part of her life, and she would like to perhaps teach.
“I’m looking for something that really fills me up, and kids always do that,” she said.
And what has she learned so far in her two years at college?
“That co-ed bathrooms in the dorms are not fun!” she joked.
Bathrooms aside, she valued having the college experience, mostly for its normalcy.
“There was something about living in a dorm, there’s something about going to school every day, balancing how to be a student athlete, going to football games, there’s something about being a normal collegiate student and student athlete that was really so important to me,” she said.
And she learned time management — balancing “the insane amount of training we were doing on top of school” and figuring out how to effectively work with her teachers.
She also relished being taken seriously as a student as well as an athlete.
“I was challenged equally in the classroom as I was in the pool, which was so hard at times,” she said. “When I get an A on a test or paper, that’s as exciting as when I got a best time (in the pool).”
Without classes filling up her schedule, will she have time to bring her dancing skills to another “Call Me Maybe”-type music video with Team USA?
It depends if another popular, danceable song comes along.
“It worked perfectly in 2012 because everyone was doing videos to (‘Call Me Maybe’), so it just worked,” she said.
“So really, it’s the music industry’s job. If it catches on, then I’m sure … ,” she added, trailing off in another laugh.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.