Four-time 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin is wrapping up her freshman season at the University of California, which has been both a challenging and scrapbook-filling experience.
The year affirmed to Franklin that she chose correctly in picking two years of college over becoming a professional swimmer right away, passing up enticing sums of endorsement dollars.
“I would make the same decision a hundred times over again,” Franklin told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.
Franklin looked ahead to next week’s NCAA Championships and the following week’s trip to the Laureus Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in recent interviews.
Her Cal Bears are favored to win their fourth national title in six years thanks to a star-studded roster that includes not only Franklin but also World Championships relay gold medalist Liz Pelton and Olympic relay gold medalist Rachel Bootsma.
Franklin jumped right into college swimming after becoming the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships in Barcelona last summer.
At Cal, she was named Pac-12 Championships Swimmer of the Meet and twice the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month. She set Pac-12 Championships records in the 100-yard freestyle, 200 free and 500 free. She also entered the 1,000 free this season, spicing up her usually slate of shorter events with less focus on the backstroke.
Cal’s headed for the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis from March 20-22. She has a binder ready to fill with mementos, just as she did for the Pac-12 Championships, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Franklin’s also adjusted to taking college classes. It hasn’t been easy, as any student-athlete can attest. The former (Aurora, Colo.) Regis Jesuit High School honor student celebrated receiving a “C” on a midterm last semester, according to the newspaper, but still maintained a 3.5 grade-point average. She hopes to earn a psychology degree.
Her plan at Cal remains the same, to swim for two seasons and turn professional in 2015, one year before the Rio Olympics. She even has an idea of what she wants to do after she retires from the sport — become a kindergarten teacher, according to SwimVortex.com.
Franklin was recently nominated for Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year along with German soccer player Nadine Angerer, Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, Slovenian skier Tina Maze and American tennis star Serena Williams.
The winner will be announced in Kuala Lumpur on March 26. A swimmer has never won Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year. Michael Phelps has been nominated five times.
It remains to be seen if Phelps and Franklin will swim in the same meet again as they did at the 2012 Olympics. Phelps re-entered the drug-testing pool last year to be eligible for meets this spring and summer, but it’s unknown if or when he will dip his feet back in competition.
Franklin will surely transition from NCAA 25-yard pools to Grand Prix, national and international 50-meter pools, but she hasn’t set her schedule yet.
The first Grand Prix event is in Mesa, Ariz., from April 24-26. The U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., and the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia are in August.
Of course, it’s not all about swimming, which is how Franklin explained why college outweighed professional swimming.
“I was puzzled for a long time … it was a huge decision for me,” she said, according to SwimVortex.com. “I think that swimming in college and being a part of the Cal team had more to offer me at that point in my life than endorsements did. It’s not that I don’t want endorsements. One day, I would love to be a professional swimmer. For where I am right now, I think I can benefit more as a person and as an athlete swimming in college.
“So far, that’s been more than true.”