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

Missy Franklin
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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

Carissa Moore the latest Olympian to receive Sullivan Award

Carissa Moore
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Carissa Moore, who won surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, joined a long list of gold medalists to receive the Sullivan Award, which has honored an outstanding U.S. athlete outside of major professional sports (usually NCAA or an Olympian) since 1930.

The other finalists were Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, NCAA Softball Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and NCAA Baseball Player of the Year Ivan Melendez.

Moore followed her Olympic title in 2021 by finishing second in the season-long World Surf League, upset by Australian Stephanie Gilmore in the finals in September. Most of the 2024 Olympic spots will be determined by next season’s World Surf League standings.

She is the first surfer to win the Sullivan Award.

Past honorees include Michael PhelpsCarl Lewis and Eric Heiden.

The Sullivan Award “recognizes the outstanding athlete whose athletic accomplishments are complemented by qualities of leadership, character and sportsmanship.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Olympians/Paralympians to win Sullivan Award since 2000
2022: Carissa Moore (Surfing)
2021: Simone Biles (Gymnastics) and Caeleb Dressel (Swimming)
2018: Kyle Snyder (Wrestling)
2016: Breanna Stewart (Basketball, shared award)
2013: Missy Franklin (Swimming)
2011: Evan Lysacek (Figure Skating)
2009: Shawn Johnson (Gymnastics)
2007: Jessica Long (Swimming, Paralympics)
2005: Paul Hamm (Gymnastics)
2004: Michael Phelps (Swimming)
2003: Sarah Hughes (Figure Skating)
2002: Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating)
2001: Rulon Gardner (Wrestling)

Long jumper accused of false information to get Olympic spot

Izmir Smajlaj
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A long jumper and two officials from Albania could face bans after they were accused of submitting false information that helped the athlete get a spot at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said Friday it had charged long jumper Izmir Smajlaj, Albanian track federation president Gjegj Ruli and the federation’s general secretary Nikolin Dionisi with disciplinary offenses over a competition held in Albania in May 2021, two months before the Tokyo Olympics. They are all provisionally suspended until the case is resolved.

Smajlaj was named as the competition winner with a national-record jump of 8.16 meters.

“It is alleged that false information was submitted to World Athletics and the AIU in support of this competition result,” the AIU said.

Smajlaj’s result wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Olympics outright, but he got a place under the “universality” rule that allows countries to send one male and female athlete to the Olympic track events. Those athletes still have to provide evidence they have met a certain standard to compete.

Smajlaj jumped 7.86 meters at the Olympics as he failed to qualify for the final.

The AIU said in September that Albania was one of seven countries on a “competition manipulation watch list” along with Turkey, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

It’s not the first time Tokyo Olympic qualifiers have allegedly been manipulated. Swimming’s world governing body FINA said last year there was “nefarious behavior” around two swim meets in Uzbekistan just before the Olympics and refused to recognize the results. An Indian swimmer who took part in one of the meets said the results were faked and that he had been offered a bribe to keep quiet.

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