NEW YORK — Missy Franklin continues to do physical therapy to prevent a recurrence of back spasms, which first struck her two days before the Pan Pacific Championships in August, the biggest international meet of the year.
“Trying to just, kind of change the way that I move,” Franklin said before a screening of “Touch the Wall” in lower Manhattan on Sunday night. The film documents Franklin and three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce‘s run up to the 2012 Olympics, where Franklin won five medals (four gold).
Has the back bothered her at all the last three months?
“It’s been a process,” Franklin answered. “I have made time to make sure I’m getting in and taking care of things.”
On Aug. 19, Franklin lined up for a backstroke start in training, like she had done hundreds of times, and felt such a knot in her back that she had to be helped out of the pool in Gold Coast, Australia.
She told her parents that day the pain felt like a “10 out of 10.” Franklin received acupuncture, massage and painkilling treatments. It subsided to a four out of 10 by her first race at the meet two days later, but was still constant.
She decided to compete. Franklin swam in 11 races over four days, including three relays.
“Honey, you really don’t have to do those relays,” her mother, D.A., told her.
“Yeah, I do, I’m going to do them,” Franklin responded.
Franklin couldn’t have reached her goals at the meet. She won a single bronze medal in four individual events, though her winning time in a consolation final of the 200m freestyle would have earned silver behind Katie Ledecky in the championship final.
“My career had been very much sunshine and rainbows every single meet,” Franklin said. “It was kind of only a matter of time before I had this moment where I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be. It’s been an unbelievable motivator. I’m very much ready to get back going upwards again.”
Franklin fortunately received an upgrade on her flight back from Australia to the U.S., giving her the option to lay down. She started her sophomore year at the University of California the day after landing in the States.
She also received an MRI and bone scan upon her return.
“It was nothing structural, nothing that was actually happening in my bones,” she said.
Franklin took on more classes this semester, 17 credits, after 13 in each of her semesters last year. The psychology major found a course called “drugs and the brain” particularly interesting, along with her first college math class (statistics), a language and society course (for her education minor) and Scandinavian literature.
Her workload in the pool changed, too. Franklin, known to volunteer for any event to help the team, swam up to 1,000-yard freestyle events last season. Now, Cal has a star freshman distance freestyler in Cierra Runge to handle that. Franklin is pleased to swim more backstrokes so far this year.
It’s her final season of college swimming. Franklin, whose biggest goal is to win an NCAA team title, will turn professional next spring but still train at Cal.