Missy Franklin wins Sportswoman of the Year, talks college life, swimming future

Missy Franklin
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Make room for another award, Missy Franklin.

Franklin, with 16 Olympic and World Championship medals the last three years, won the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year for an individual sport, presented in New York on Wednesday night.

“This is one of the most incredible honors I have ever received,” Franklin told ESPN.com. “I mean, to be a part of this night, let alone to receive an award from it means the world to me.”

Franklin, 18, who won a female record six gold medals at the World Championships in August, beat out finalists Mao Asada (figure skating), Kelly Clark (snowboarding), Tina Maze (Alpine skiing), Tatyana McFadden (track and field), Inbee Park (golf), Jenn Suhr (track and field) and Serena Williams (tennis).

Two-time Olympic champion Candace Parker won the team sport award. The Billie Jean King Contribution Award went to Parker’s WNBA. The Wilma Rudolph Courage Award went to Paralympic swimmer and triathlete Melissa Stockwell. The Annika Inspiration Award went to tennis player Vivian Hao.

Franklin, a freshman at California, took a redeye flight to New York for the event after finishing midterm exams, according to The Associated Press.

Franklin swam eight events at the World Championships (scratching out of the 50 backstroke after prelims) and was asked by the AP if she could try for eight at the Rio Olympics. Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“I’m definitely not looking to add events right now, but I think we’ll see what happens,” she said.

Franklin also talked about coming in second place in some of her first college races and experiencing her first earthquake to the AP and The New York Times.

She told the Times she has a double major — “undecided and undeclared” — but told both outlets choosing Cal over going pro and passing up millions of endorsement dollars was the best decision she’s ever made.

She was recently in her dorm room when a 3.1-magnitude earthquake centered two miles from the Berkeley campus struck.

“We looked at each other like, ‘Uh, was that an earthquake?’” Franklin said, according to the Times. “Then we heard everyone coming out of their rooms and screaming in the hallway, and we were like, ‘Yeaaah!’”

At her first meet, a fellow simmer said he had a psychology class with Franklin, where people came up outside the classroom doors to ask for autographs and pictures.

There have also been slightly more ordinary college experiences, such as a Cal tradition for freshman swimmers:

And homesickness.

“I call my mom at least once every single day,” she said on the red carpet before Wednesday’s event. “That’s all me. That’s not even her. I just like to call her when I’m walking back from class to say hi. We try and Skype and FaceTime at least every couple of days, so I can see my puppy (Ruger, an Alaskan malamute).”

What’s next for Franklin? Not Duel in the Pool. The once-every-two-years Ryder Cup-like swimming event will be in Glasgow, Scotland, Dec. 20-21. Cal’s fall semester ends Dec. 20.

“For freshman year with finals and everything going on, it may not be the best time for an international trip,” she said. “But I would love to in the future, and I was honored to be asked. The timing didn’t work out too well this time.”

Past Sportswoman of the Year (individual sport) winners
Gabby Douglas (2012)
Yani Tseng
Yuna Kim
Courtney Kupets
Nastia Liukin
Lorena Ochoa
Melanie Troxel
Erin Popovich
Annika Sorenstam
Natalie Coughlin
Sarah Hughes
Stacy Dragila
Jenny Thompson
Juli Inkster
Michelle Kwan
Gail Devers
Amy Van Dyken
Bonnie Blair
Bonnie Blair
Julie Krone

Ryan Lochte swims with Diana Nyad