Missy Franklin
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Missy Franklin: ‘What if I’m never as good as I was?’

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Missy Franklin is so upbeat, so full of energy, so dang positive all the time, it’s hard to imagine her ever going to a dark place.

After what happened last summer, though, it’s only natural that she would start to question everything she stood for.

“Being totally honest with you, it’s something that terrifies me,” Franklin said, her perpetually positive tone suddenly filled with doubt and insecurity. “What if I’m never as good as I was?”

That’s a logical, if excruciating question.

At 17, she was the darling of the Olympics, a bubbly teenager who swam in seven events at London and captured four golds and a bronze. Four years later, she barely qualified for the U.S. team, ceded a starring role to Katie Ledecky, and didn’t come close to winning an individual medal in Rio de Janeiro, her only prize a rather fluky gold for swimming on a relay team in a morning preliminary.

“It was awful. It was miserable,” said Franklin, who sounds as though she could probably come up with dozens of other adjectives to describe what a letdown it was. “You work your ass off. You feel like you’re in the best shape of your life. You feel so great. And then, when you finish, you’re like, ‘What was that?’ You’re flabbergasted. You’re blown away every single race. You can’t understand why one plus one doesn’t equal two anymore.”

Turns out, she was far from 100 percent. It would be easy to make excuses now, to point out that she’s needed surgery on both shoulders after Rio.

But Franklin knows that wasn’t the issue. Only thing is, she may never know why she was such a huge flop on her sport’s biggest stage.

“One of my biggest concerns with coming out (to the public) about my shoulder surgeries with everybody saying, ‘Oh, that’s what was wrong.’ It wasn’t,” Franklin said, honest as always. “I can say that with 100 percent certainty. The way I was training the whole year, it was the best training I’ve ever done in my life.

“For some reason,” she goes on to say, as if still probing for answers, “it wasn’t going over to my racing strategy, wasn’t going over to my races. I can’t pinpoint it. I can’t figure out why. Maybe it was just a culmination of a lot of different things.”

At this point, Franklin’s main goal is to quit wondering why it happened, and just accept that it did. Getting distance from the sport is helping her move in that direction.

Undergoing a pair of shoulder surgeries just weeks apart early in the year forced her to step away from the pool. It also gave her a chance to re-evaluate her life, her priorities, her struggle to comprehend what happened last summer.

Franklin is missing the two biggest meets of the year — the U.S. Championships in Indianapolis, which begin on Tuesday, and next month’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

It seems incredibly strange, but somehow liberating at the same time.

“This is the first summer since I was 14 that I haven’t traveled internationally with the national team,” said Franklin, who is now 22. “It’s so crazy. That was such a constant in my life. I was so comfortable with my routine. But I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. This is a period of my life where I’m challenged to be uncomfortable, to break my routine. When I do come back, it will be with a different outlook, a different perspective.”

Make no mistake, she has no intention to retire.

Franklin can’t bear the thought of the last impression that she leaves for everyone being that miserable performance in Rio.

“The closest I ever got” to thinking about quitting, she said, “was me recognizing that I needed to take a chunk of time away. A huge part of me can’t imagine leaving the sport on that note. It wasn’t about times. I’m not saying I’ll leave swimming only after I’ve gotten another four gold medals at last Olympics. But I want it to be a performance I’m really proud of.”

That wasn’t the case in Rio, even though Franklin knows she gave it everything she had. In retrospect, she wasn’t as happy as she led everyone — herself included — to believe.

Following a carefully planned and what seemed a totally logical schedule after London, she swam collegiately at California-Berkeley for two years before turning professional a year out from the Rio Games. It made sense, giving her a chance to focus completely on her swimming and cash in on all the riches she missed by staying an amateur in the immediate aftermath of 2012.

But, as part of turning pro, she returned home to Colorado to train with her former team and her former coach. In retrospect, that was probably not the right move — only because she had changed so much in those two years she was away.

Missy grew up. Her friends had moved away. She was home, but felt all alone.

“I had no friends there,” Franklin said, in a rare moment of sounding sad. “There was nothing to do but just train and swim. That became my whole life. I had to get to a place where I could find balance again.”

She feels like she’s found that place again. She returned to Berkeley not long after the Rio Games, a liberating development that allowed her to resume classes — she’s about a year and a half from graduating — and reconnect with friends. She’s resumed training a couple of times a week, but is in no hurry to return to the grind required of a world-class swimmer.

The other night, after leading a campus meeting of Athletes in Action, a Christian-based group that allows her to mix her sporting passion with her deeply held faith, one of her best friends asked if she wanted to come back to her apartment to watch the movie “Moana.”

“Normally, I would’ve said, ‘No. I have to be in bed, because I have to get up early,’” Franklin said, bursting into laughter. “Then I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I can stay up until 11. I can go over and watch Moana.’ It’s small stuff like that, but it makes the biggest difference to me.”

She hopes it will lead her back to the top of her sport.

Maybe it won’t.

With each passing day, she becomes a little more comfortable with that prospect.

“I’m not necessarily trying to be a better Missy,” Franklin said. “But I’m trying to be a happier Missy.”

MORE: USA Swimming Nationals broadcast schedule

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Birmingham Diamond League set for sprint fireworks; TV, stream schedule

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Look no further than the last two events of Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, races 200m for the first time since coming back from childbirth against one of the deepest fields in history.

Several minutes later, American stars Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles are expected to duel over 100m for the second time in their pro careers.

The sprints headline Saturday’s meet, live on NBC Sports Gold at 8 a.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 9.

Here are the Birmingham entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

8 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:19 — Men’s Long Jump
8:32 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
8:47 — Women’s Shot Put
9:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
9:13 — Men’s 400m
9:18 — Men’s High Jump
9:22 — Women’s 1500m
9:33 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
9:45 — Men’s Javelin
9:49 — Women’s 3000m
9:52 — Women’s Long Jump
10:06 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
10:14 — Men’s Mile
10:24 — Women’s 1000m
10:34 — Men’s 800m
10:44 — Women’s 200m
10:53 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Long Jump — 8:19 a.m. ET
Possibly the final jumps of Brit Greg Rutherford‘s career. The 2012 Olympic champion will retire at the end of the season and may not enter another meet after Saturday. Rutherford, 31, has struggled with ankle, foot, groin and stomach problems while finishing one of the greatest long jump careers: gold medals at the European and world champs along with his two Olympic medals. The favorite Saturday is Olympic silver medalist and world champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa.

Women’s 1500m — 9:22 a.m. ET
Olympic 800m champ Caster Semenya was originally entered here but is no longer on the start list, reportedly due to illness. The field is still strong with Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan and Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who rank Nos. 3 and 4 in the world this year, and U.S. Olympians Kate Grace and Brenda Martinez.

Men’s 800m — 10:34 a.m. ET
The fastest man in the world this year (Emmanuel Korir) takes on the world champion at 1500m (Elijah Manangoi) in a matchup of Kenyans. Korir, a 23-year-old who ran for UTEP, last month clocked the world’s fastest 800m since David Rudisha‘s world record at the 2012 Olympics. Manangoi moves down and takes a break from his recent 1500m rivalry with Timothy Cheruiyot. Rudisha won’t be there. He hasn’t competed since July 4, 2017, due to injury. Saturday’s field does include U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy.

Women’s 200m — 10:44 a.m. ET
All eight women in the field have a personal best of sub-22.2 seconds (and rank in the top 60 all-time), which IAAF statman Jon Mulkeen believes may be a first. No name is bigger than double Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who hasn’t contested a Diamond League 200m in four years. The favorite has to be Brit Dina Asher-Smith, who last week swept 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at the European Championships. Her winning 200m time, 21.89, made her fastest in the world this year by .15.

Men’s 100m — 10:53 a.m. ET
Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles, ushering the new generation of U.S. sprinters since the Rio Games, take on some of the world’s best here. There is Jamaican Yohan Blake, the second-fastest man of all time who hasn’t been near that form in five years. There is Brit Zharnel Hughes, a former Usain Bolt training partner who just won the European title. Coleman owns the world’s fastest 100m since Rio (a 9.82 in June 2017), but he ranks 17th in the world this year, slowed by hamstring problems. Lyles shares the world’s fastest time of 2018 (9.88) but so far has looked better at 200m, given his slow starts. Coleman beat Lyles by one hundredth in the first pro 100m duel on July 13.

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Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian come forward as Larry Nassar survivors

Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian
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Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian said they are survivors of Larry Nassar‘s sexual abuse, making it seven out of eight gymnasts between the last two Olympic champion teams to come forward.

Ross, a 2012 Olympian, and Kocian, a 2016 Olympian, spoke at “CBS This Morning” on Thursday.

“It was such a normalized thing that, between us, we didn’t think any different of it,” Kocian said. “We were told that it was a medical procedure. A lot of us had back injuries or hamstring injuries. That was our only option because he was our team doctor. That was our only avenue to accomplish our Olympic dreams. So, if we were to speak up, you probably wouldn’t have been in consideration for making that team.”

Ross said she wants an apology from USA Gymnastics.

“At first, hearing all the news about Larry, I really was in denial of it ever happening to me,” she said. “When I was 13, when it first happened to me, I believed that it was a legitimate form of treatment, but as the years have gone on and hearing all the impact statements of all the girls that have come forward already, I’ve realized that it was something terrible that happened to us.”

Previously, all of Ross’ London Olympic teammates said they are survivors — Gabby DouglasMcKayla MaroneyAly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber. And three of Kocian’s four Rio Olympic teammates — Simone Biles, Douglas and Raisman.

“It was almost like a family member, and on international trips he would bring us food or he would just kind of be the person that would always ask how are you doing, because the culture that was at the Karolyi ranch was a culture of fear, a culture of silence,” Kocian said. “That’s what let him to be able to abuse us.”

Ross and Kocian are rising juniors on UCLA’s gymnastics team. They are not competing on the elite level and thus not entered in this week’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Ross earned world all-around silver and bronze medals in 2013 and 2014. Kocian is an Olympic uneven bars silver medalist and 2015 World champion on bars.

“USA Gymnastics’ support is unwavering for Kyla, Madison and all athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement, according to CBS. “Their powerful voices and stories will continue to be a basis for our future decisions.”

Nassar, 55, will likely never get out of prison. Once his 60-year federal term for child porn possession ends, he would begin serving the 40- to 175-year sentence in state prison after at least 169 women and girls provided statements in his January sentencing.

Athletes accused him of sexually abusing them under the guise of medical treatment, including while he worked for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.