Franklin takes roller-coaster ride to Rio

- Christine Brennan @cbrennansp­orts USA TODAY Sports

Missy Franklin has lived a lifetime or two in the last week.

Tuesday, she failed to make the Olympic team in an event she won at the 2012 London Games. Wednesday, she came from behind to qualify for Rio in another of her specialtie­s. Thursday, she failed to qualify for the Olympics in another event she swam in London. Saturday, she made the team again in one more race she won in London.

Miss, make, miss, make. Such is the life of the famous, girl-nextdoor swimmer who is no longer a carefree teen. Such is the fate of the young adult coping with tremendous expectatio­ns.

Four years ago, 17-year-old Franklin launched herself to Olympic stardom by smoothly qualifying in seven events at the U.S. swimming trials, then going to London and winning four gold medals and a bronze.

Four years later, 21-year-old Franklin tenuously hung on to qualify for three events in Rio, without winning any single event here, then breathed a delighted sigh of relief.

“I think a lot of people coming in just assumed that in order for this to be a successful meet for me, I’d have to do the same thing I did in 2012, and that wasn’t the mind-set I had coming in,” Franklin said Saturday after her grueling week was over.

“I wasn’t trying to be better than I was in 2012. I’m trying to be the best that I am right now, here, Missy Franklin in 2016. I feel like I was able to do that.”

It wasn’t easy. Four nights earlier, after finishing a stunning seventh as the defending Olympic gold medalist in the 100 backstroke, her first race of the trials, Franklin’s lip quivered as she looked a bit lost and said, bluntly, “Right now, I need to make the team in whatever way that looks like. I need to make the team, and I’m going to do my best.”

Four years earlier, Franklin had eschewed millions in sponsor’s dollars to remain amateur so she could swim in college at CalBerkele­y. Her reasons were many, and they were lovely. This was one: “Your college teammates will end up being the bridesmaid­s at your wedding.”

Moving ahead four years, she had turned profession­al and had contracts to worry about. “We made sure I was not overcommit­ting myself, but even then, you travel a lot more and you do have more commitment­s,” she said.

But there was more. She was having trouble sleeping last week so her mother came to her room for a couple of nights. Her Cal teammates came over to help get her mind off the trials.

“I was just wanting to make people proud of me,” she said. “I realized it’s OK to be nervous, it’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to ask for help, especially as I get older, too. I found it was OK to realize it was going to be different this time.”

After her failure in the 100 backstroke, Franklin stormed back to make the Olympic team the next day by finishing second in the 200 freestyle. But then came more disappoint­ment when she didn’t qualify for the eightwoman final in the 100 freestyle, finishing 11th in the semifinals.

And, then, finally Saturday night’s second-place finish in the 200 backstroke, finishing in 2 minutes, 7.89 seconds, nearly four seconds slower than the world record she set in London four years ago but still good enough on this night.

“It was a roller coaster, but I showed some grit this week,” she said. “I got a spot, and that’s all I needed to do.”

 ?? ERICH SCHLEGEL, USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Maya DiRado and Missy Franklin finished 1-2 in the 200-meter backstroke final.
ERICH SCHLEGEL, USA TODAY SPORTS Maya DiRado and Missy Franklin finished 1-2 in the 200-meter backstroke final.

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