Missy Franklin has no regrets choosing college over turning pro

Missy Franklin
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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.”

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”