11-Time World Champ Missy Franklin Retires

Five-time Olympic champ and 11-time World champ Missy Franklin has announced her retirement from competitive swimming at the age of 23.

Franklin announced her retirement on social media Wednesday along with a long-form letter published by ESPNW. In the letter, Franklin recounts the highs of her career – particularly a stretch from 2012 to 2013 when she was among the most dominant female swimmers in history – along with the lows, which began with a series of health issues in 2014.

“It is with tears in my eyes but a full heart that I begin typing this letter,” Franklin writes. “It’s hard to know where to begin, but I feel confident and fulfilled in how it will end, and that’s all I could ever ask for.”

A 15-year-old Franklin burst onto the international swimming scene in 2010, qualifying for the U.S. Pan Pacific Championships team and later winning two silver medals at Short Course Worlds. She would win three gold medals at long course Worlds in 2011, followed by four golds and a bronze at the 2012 Olympics and crescendo-ing with a record six gold medals in seven events at the 2013 long course World Championships. That haul was the most in history by a woman in a single edition of the World Championships.

Back spasms limited Franklin at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, and though she had a historic 2015 NCAA meet (featuring three individual titles and an American record 1:39.10 in the 200 free that still stands), her 2015 Worlds production dipped to just individual silver and bronze, with three relay medals also in the mix. Franklin made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team but didn’t medal individually. She took gold with the 4×200 free relay, but a rough prelims split left her off the relay during finals.

Franklin has since opened up about her struggles post-2012, which she says in the ESPNW piece included “shoulder pain whenever I tried to train or compete, depression, anxiety and insomnia.”

2016 “was also the year when I began to fully accept the fact that something was wrong with my body and it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to work,” Franklin writes.

Franklin had surgery in early 2017 and later that year started training with the men’s professional group at the University of California. She would later move to Georgia to start a comeback run with that pro group, but missed USA Swimming’s national team and travel teams this past summer. Just this morning, we included her post-race interview in our Swammy Award for Viral Video of the Year. That interview, which you can see below, is as raw and honest an interview as you’ll see from a professional athlete, while also showing off the vintage Franklin optimism and positivity:

Franklin is the second-most-decorated woman in long course World Champs history, both by gold medals and overall medals. Her 11 golds between 2011 and 2015 rank second only to Katie Ledecky‘s 12. And her 16 total medals sit second only to Natalie Coughlin.

In her letter, Franklin says she doesn’t regret her decision to compete in college when many suggested she should turn pro.

“People would sometimes laugh when I said I wanted to swim in college because I knew I would meet my future bridesmaids on my team and that they would become my family for life,” writes Franklin, who got engaged this past fall. “Well, I did meet them. One maid of honor and three bridesmaids, to be exact.”

Franklin also writes about her excitement for the next stage of her life:

“I began to realize that my greatest dream in life, more so than Olympic gold, has always been becoming a mom,” Franklin writes noting that she wants to be able to hold her future children without the chronic shoulder pain she’s experienced for the last few years of her swimming career. “Swimming had been such a huge part of my life for as long as I could remember, but it was not my entire life. I still have dreams, goals, aspirations and intentions I plan on living out every day of my life.”

Franklin has been a Speedo Athlete for many years.  Speedo USA President John Graham said:

Missy Franklin has left an indelible mark on the sport of swimming that goes far beyond her competitive accomplishments. Since taking the global stage as a teenager, she has inspired us all with her passion for the water, indomitable spirit and contagious smile. We are proud to have been a part of Missy’s journey from the start, and will undoubtedly continue to support her endeavors as she takes on this new chapter.”

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Ervin
2 years ago

Congrats Missy on a great career!!! Good luck on all future endeavors!!!!!

Rocky
2 years ago

There will never be a better example of humility and positivity in this sport.

Britt
Reply to  Rocky
2 years ago

I wish I could upvote this a thousand times. Such a true statement.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Rocky
2 years ago

yes there will be – but that does not take anything from her sheer honesty . Never use Never when u are not sure in advance .

Hswimmer
Reply to  ERVINFORTHEWIN
2 years ago

I agree @ervinforthewin

jay
Reply to  ERVINFORTHEWIN
2 years ago

perhaps a hyperbole

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  ERVINFORTHEWIN
2 years ago

i got 2 examples but they are not yet retired : Nathan Adrian & Matt Grevers .

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  ERVINFORTHEWIN
2 years ago

Second that. Grevers reaction to Dressel’s 100 free win at SCM at Worlds and Adrian’s rush over the lanes to congratulate Ervin for his Rio win were classics.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

thanks Ol’Longhorn – appreciated . Lets keep en open mind here .

Jimbo
2 years ago

She is and was such an inspiration to me and she always will be

M Palota
2 years ago

No person that I know of has experienced – and shared with us – the very best of our sport and the very worst to extent this young woman has.

I wish her the very, very best in the years ahead. Godspeed, Missy Franklin. And thank you.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  M Palota
2 years ago

The very worst of our sport is drug cheating and sexual assaults. Love Missy, but bad shoulders and disappointing swims are not even in the same arena.

Swimfan
Reply to  M Palota
2 years ago

Um Michael Phelps did a pretty good job of that? Can we maybe celebrate Missy without comparing? Lots of greats have retired. All had their triumphs. All had their share of struggles. All very special in their own way.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Swimfan
2 years ago

agreed !!!

The Ready Room
2 years ago

Thank you for all the wonderful blessings you’ve given our sport and for the never ending optimism and tenacity you’ve exhibited for the last decade. I hope your retirement brings peace and a fresh start for your next chapter.

Yooz
2 years ago

Whos cutting onions?! Beautiful letter Missy, nobody will ever forget the 200 free at 2016 trials where you came back, you DEFINE the true heart of a champion. What a career!

NothingsFair
2 years ago

She made swimming positive again. She made me wake up to the sport again after I had to quit from crippling anxiety and depression. She embodies everything this sport should be. We love you Missy. Can’t wait to follow you on this journey. This is only the beginning.

OldDad
2 years ago

Curious (not meaning to hate at ALL) what is she doing next? What’d she go to school for? As I’m not barely keeping up with world class swimmers, sniffs like Maya DiRado did it “right”. Stanford? Check. USA Olympic team and medals? Check Career after college? Check.

I’m not meaning to pick on Ms Franklin. She presents like a great emmisary for the sport. And I’m not seeing my questions as limited to swimming. The list of college football and basketball athletes who don’t make a living at their sport is long.

And it’s sad to hear of her depression, etc.

Taa
Reply to  OldDad
2 years ago

I think it’s just assumed that she will be some type of swimmming ambassador for at least another decade. So maybe into media and just appearances promoting the sport. I guess if no one shows up for her autograph or at the swim clinic then she would know it’s time to move on but that will not happen any time soon

longseeker
Reply to  Taa
2 years ago

I went to all the Cal swim meets for years, and I will never forget seeing hundreds of girls wait patiently after each meet to get her autograph. And it took her a long time to sign and talk to the girls making sure she got to meet everyone of them. See you at the meets Missy!

Woke Stasi
Reply to  OldDad
2 years ago

@OldDad
Her future plans? Tomorrow NBC will announce that Missy is replacing Rowdy Gaines as their color analyst for swimming broadcasts. Win-win all around!

Best wishes Missy!

Yah
Reply to  Woke Stasi
2 years ago

Funniest comment ever! I love it.

shrimpngrits
Reply to  Woke Stasi
2 years ago

If only I could like this comment X 10…..

Love to Swim
Reply to  Woke Stasi
2 years ago

Yaaaaassssssssss!

You’re serious, right?

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Woke Stasi
2 years ago

loved that one. If it was true , we would all jump in the Air lol

Jvj
Reply to  Woke Stasi
2 years ago

Not confirmed yet. It’s contingent on which side Missy breaths on…

Caleb
Reply to  OldDad
2 years ago

I seem to recall reading that she was studying psychology when she went back to Georgia. Presumably as an undergrad, still…

The Ready Room
Reply to  OldDad
2 years ago

She says she wants to be a mom. That sounds like a pretty big job to me

Reply to  OldDad
2 years ago

FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT: Missy transcends swimming. She’s an Olympic icon. Icons can, if they choose, earn a respectable living for several decades, a lifetime really. Missy’s very professional, composed under pressure, connects when addressing a small group or a large crowd. These are the qualities brands, nonprofits and large NGBs look for. Missy’s career, whatever she chooses, will be interesting and exciting. AND, she’s earned every opportunity that comes to her.

Woke Stasi
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

@Melvin
You’re dead on in your assessment. But she’ll have to work at it — continuously through every Olympic Quad. People’s memories grow short.

I’ve alway been impressed how you were able to keep your name out there long after your 1992 glory. Or how John Naber was able to do the same long after 1976.

Maybe she’ll invest some of her earnings in the SwimSwam website/publishing-vehicle and become “Gold Medal Missy.”

Chicago
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

Your assessment is way off the mark and almost as over-the-top as Missy’s personality. I don’t think the people at Speedo would agree either. Composed under pressure? She was crying in the pool at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

N P
Reply to  Chicago
2 years ago

Being composed under pressure is not about being emotionless. It’s about channeling everything you have into the task at hand. After the race is over, who cares if you cry? The race is done; there’s no pressure anymore.

OLDBALDIMER
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

Had the opportunity to meet Missy at a Masters camp at the Olympic training center! What a wonderful young lady and was so helpful and gracious during the camp. I asked her to look at my backstroke and swam a easy 50 and then a race pace 50 for her ….. never forget that she told me… don’t change a thing it’s beautiful!

Missy can earn a great living spreading her enthusiasm and passion she has for the sport! Best of luck Missy!

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  OLDBALDIMER
2 years ago

Great testimony OLDBALDIMER

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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