The effervescent Missy Franklin has laid out a bold (but certainly attainable) dream for her swimming career.
“Without a doubt, I feel totally free to say it’s my absolute dream to become the most decorated female Olympian, or female swimmer Olympian of all time, I should say,” Franklin said in a “60 Minutes Sports” profile that first aired Wednesday night.
Franklin, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of California, won five medals (four gold) in her Olympic debut at London 2012.
She must take at least eight more Olympic medals to surpass the record of 12 captured by her U.S. swimming predecessors — Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres and Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin, who earned a medal in every one of her Olympic races, is still active at 32.
The most decorated female Olympian across all sports was Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who bagged 18 medals. The most decorated Olympian is Michael Phelps, at 22 (and possibly counting).
No female swimmer has won more than six medals at a single Games, so Franklin will very likely have to swim through at least 2020 to realize this dream. Even before Franklin’s profile on “60 Minutes Sports,” most expected her to swim into the next decade.
Franklin, who is slated to turn professional later this year, could get very close to the magic number of 13 Olympic medals at Rio 2016.
At the 2013 World Championships, she became the first female swimmer to win six gold medals at a single Worlds. However, she suffered back spasms two days before the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest meet of last year.
Franklin earned one bronze medal in four individual events at Pan Pacs, plus three relay medals, while clearly not 100 percent.
“When a Missy Franklin says it’s 10 out of 10 [in pain], it’s probably 20 for most people,” Cal and U.S. coach Teri McKeever said on “60 Minutes Sports.”
Franklin qualified in four individual events for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August — 100m and 200m backstroke and 100m and 200m freestyle.
She owns the fastest time in the world in the 100m backstroke since the London Olympics (by .31 of a second) and is the world-record holder in the 200m backstroke.
She faces tougher competition for international podiums in the 100m and 200m freestyles, namely from Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell (100m), Swede Sarah Sjostrom (100m and 200m) and countrywoman Katie Ledecky (200m).
Franklin is expected to swim in NCAA competition for the last time at the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in two weeks. She will be ineligible for college swimming after she turns pro.
*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the NCAA Championships were in Raleigh, N.C.