Matthew Kitchen, NBC Olympics
Anytime you get Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in a pool together, be it the 200m free final or a summer barbecue, it’s a big deal. But on Wednesday we got our first real glimpse at emerging swim star Missy Franklin. She didn’t disappoint.
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The teen phenom clocked 58.85 seconds in the 100m back to break the American record less than 18 minutes after qualifying for the 200m free finals. She’ll swim those Thursday. But Missy will remember Wednesday as the night she punched her first Olympic ticket. You could see the smile beaming on her face as soon as she came out of the water.
“I’ve waited so long for this,” Missy, all of 17-years-old, told NBC’s Andrea Kramer. “I can’t believe it’s happening right now. I’m so happy.”
She later gushed over Natalie Coughlin, who was under world record pace at the turn before fading to third. Missy called the three-time gold medalist her “role model,” even as her victory signified the end of Coughlin’s reign among the women’s ranks.
Americans picks a few athletes to focus on each Olympics. This year’s swim team has the veteran champion in Phelps, the hot shot in Lochte, and now the upstart in Missy. You’ll have to pick sides between the boys since they’re going head-to-head, but Missy is the winner that everyone will love.
Of course, Americans have never hated a winner (save for LeBron) so it doesn’t hurt that Missy can swim. She was already a world record holder before her seventeenth birthday, outpacing the 200m back field by more than a second in Berlin last fall. Now she admits she’s been “training a lot more on the backstroke” recently, so we can only imagine how fast she’ll swim in London (read: very fast).
Then she can return to the fanfare of the Today Show, the Tonight Show, probably some afternoon shows and a magazine cover or two; they’ll all be clamoring. But first, the Olympics. One spot locked up and a few more to go. Still, she’ll never forget Wednesday night as the one that started it all.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.