Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin on her dream relay, unusual autographs, ‘the worm’

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Five-time Olympic swimming medalist Missy Franklin took time last week to answer questions from OlympicTalk as she announced a new role as a Laureus Ambassador.

Here are excerpts from the Q&A:

OlympicTalk: You met Mark Spitz for the first time when you won the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year last March. What do you remember about what he told you?

Franklin: We were with Mark for the majority of the weekend, dinner events and leading up to the actual award ceremony, him presenting my award, which was literally a dream come true. It seems like yesterday, and it also feels like 10 years ago.

One of the things that really struck me was we were at a dinner, and I think he introduced me to someone as the greatest female swimmer in the world. I was like, Mark, you can’t say that! Just to have him introduce me to people like that. Here I am having Mark Spitz say that about me.

OlympicTalk: What’s your upcoming schedule?

Franklin: I have three weeks left in my semester. I have two finals and a couple of papers to write. The finals are in anthropology and molecular and cell biology.

OlympicTalk: When’s your next swim meet?

Franklin: Probably not [the Pro Swim Series at] Charlotte [May 14-17], because it’s so close to finals. I am planning on [the Pro Swim Series at] Santa Clara [Calif., June 18-21].

OlympicTalk: Who would win an 800m freestyle race — Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky?

Franklin: I don’t think you could even answer that. Those are two people who you could never count them out, ever. It doesn’t matter what race they’re in, what they’re doing. I honestly couldn’t say, but I think it would be pretty fun.

OlympicTalk: Have you ever thought about racing against men?

Franklin: Actually there was a lot of talk after NCAAs that I should race [Stanford’s] David Nolan while he does a 200 [individual medley] and I do 200 freestyle. I don’t know why that came up.

Editor’s Note: Nolan won the NCAA title in the 200-yard individual medley in 1:39.38, becoming the first swimmer to go sub-1:40 in that event. Franklin won the NCAA title in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:39.10, breaking her American record by 1.21 seconds.

OlympicTalk: Which swimmers have you asked for autographs?

Franklin: I think the only time I really ever asked for autographs was at [2008 Olympic] trials. A bunch of my friends that were there, they knew I would be on the pool deck, so I had a better chance of getting to [the famous swimmers] than other people. I was terrified. I was scared out of my mind to talk to these people. The two people I got them from were Megan Jendrick and Cullen Jones. They probably don’t remember this at all. They were both so sweet. It’s so funny looking back on that, this dinky 13-year-old totally star struck. Now I’m texting Megan and her husband all the time. They’re sending me pictures of their beautiful children. And Cullen and I are such great friends.

OlympicTalk: What’s the most unusual item you’ve autographed?

Franklin: A rock. I think it was at my local neighborhood school one day [in Colorado]. Ten to 15 kids came over and said, can we get your signature? I said, but do you guys have anything for me to sign? They went over to the side of the pool and grabbed rocks.

OlympicTalk: You famously did “the worm” at a school assembly in May 2012. When was the last time you did “the worm?”

Franklin: It has been a while. Like it has to be that prime moment to drop down and do it. I think I may have done it for a Pac-12 Network interview. They asked me if I had any special talents. I can do the worm. With all these wires, I plopped down and did the worm (video here).

OlympicTalk: Michael Phelps and other swimmers listen to music on the walk out to the pool deck for races. Why don’t you?

Franklin: I listen to music on the way to the pool and pre-warm-up, but in terms of walking out, I take so much energy from the environment I’m in and the crowd. Those are the kind of moments I want to stop and pause and take in. When I walk out, and I’m hearing them say my name, watching the crowd, that’s what gives me chills. That’s what energizes me. I know it’s different for other people, but I like to be super present and take in everything.

OlympicTalk: What would be your dream relay quartet?

Franklin: If I’m being totally honest, there’s so many greats, but I would say maybe two answers. A 200 freestyle relay with Allison Schmitt, Katie Ledecky and Jenny Thompson. I honestly think my dream relay was the 400m medley relay at the London Olympics, being on that relay with Dana [Vollmer] and Schmitty and Rebecca [Soni].

Michael Phelps to move to Arizona with coach Bob Bowman

USA Gymnastics closes Karolyi Ranch

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USA Gymnastics said it will no longer use the Karolyi Ranch in Texas as its training center, where athletes said Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts.

“USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas,” USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a press release Thursday. “It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December. Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.

“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”

MORE: Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

World champions Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols said that Nassar sexually abused gymnasts at the ranch.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch,” Nichols wrote in a victim impact statement read at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings on Wednesday and published last week. “This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

“I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

“He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”

Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, urged USA Gymnastics to close the ranch in a Tuesday interview on ESPN.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” she said. “I hope they listen, and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after, you know, so many of us were abused there.”

Simone Biles did not specifically name the Karolyi Ranch in her Monday statement, but Raisman said Tuesday that Biles was referring to that site.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing at Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” was posted on Biles’ social media.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, said Nassar was alone with her in her bed at the ranch.

“There was no one else sent with him,” she said on CBS last year. “The treatment was in the bed, in my bed that I slept on at the ranch.”

USA Gymnastics said in July 2016 that it reached an agreement with former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi to purchase the training facility the couple owned.

The national governing body backed out of the purchase in May “for a variety of reasons” but continued under its current lease agreement while exploring alternative locations for camps. It held national team camps there in September and November.

The Karolyis established the ranch in 1983 after defecting from Romania. It had been a national team training center since 2001.

Larry Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A statement from McKayla Maroney read Thursday repeated that sexual assault by Larry Nassar “left scars” in her mind that may never fade as a judge heard a third day of testimony from victims.

Nassar could be sentenced Friday in Lansing. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been listening to dozens of young women who were molested after seeking his help for injuries.

Aquilina started the hearing Thursday by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. He called the hearing “a media circus.”

The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”

“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls as a doctor for Michigan State University and at his home.

He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics for nearly two decades. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a statement read by a prosecutor (Maroney’s statement was previously posted in the fall). “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness.”

“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”

Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

The judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar.

It’s “about their control over other human beings and feeling like God and they can do anything,” Aquilina said of sex offenders.

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.