Missy Franklin, better known as Missy “The Missile,” first gained fame in Team USA’s “Call Me Maybe” music video that went viral in the summer of 2012. Missy, then just 16, used her dancing skills to catapult her to international success. Perhaps (just maybe) her status as one of the world’s elite swimmers contributed to her rise to stardom.
Born in 1995 in Pasadena, CA, Franklin grew up in Centennial, CO, with her parents, Dick and D.A., and her Alaskan malamute, Ruger. Her parents are originally from Canada, and thus Franklin has dual citizenship. At her mother’s request, she started swimming at age 5 and quickly loved the sport, swimming for the Colorado Stars under coach Todd Schmitz.
Franklin attended Regis Jesuit High School, an all-girls private school in Aurora, CO. She swam for the Regis Jesuit swim team all four years and graduated in 2013.
Franklin began her national and international career with the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials when she was just 13. She swam the 100m freestyle, 50m freestyle, and 200m IM. Two years later, Franklin’s performance at the 2010 National Championships qualified her to participate in the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships, where she placed fourth in the 100m backstroke. Her breakout international swim (earning her the Golden Goggle award for Breakout Performer of the Year) was at the 2010 Short Course World Championships in Dubai, where she placed second in the 200m backstroke.
Franklin truly established herself as one of the world’s elite in 2011 at the World Championships in Shanghai.
2011 FINA World Championships
In her first event, she won a silver medal with teammates Natalie Coughlin, Jessica Hardy and Dana Vollmer in the 400m freestyle relay. She won bronze in the 50m backstroke and joined teammates Dagny Knutson, Katie Hoff and Allison Schmitt to win gold in the 800m freestyle relay. Then, in the 200m backstroke, an event that would soon become Franklin’s signature, she won her first individual gold medal and posted the third fastest time in the world at that time. The U.S. women’s relay team of Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin won gold in the 400m medley relay, finishing three seconds ahead of China.
2011 was a preview year for Franklin, just a taste of her huge talent and potential. She entered 2012, an Olympic year, as a junior in high school.
2012 US Olympic Trials
At Trials, she qualified in the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as the 100 and 200 freestyle.
2012 Olympic Games
In London, she became the U.S.’ star of the swimming games, second only perhaps to the legendary Michael Phelps. She won gold in the 100 and 200 backstroke, setting a world record in the latter. She also was part of the gold-medal-winning 800 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay, and won bronze as part of the 400 freestyle relay. She placed fourth in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 100 freestyle.
2013 World Championships
At the 2013 World Championships, Franklin won six gold medals (she swam seven events, total). She was victorious in the 200 freestyle, 200 backstroke, 100 backstroke, 400 medley and freestyle relays, 800 freestyle relay, and placed fourth in the 100 freestyle.
Franklin competed through back problems during 2014, winning the 100 and 200 backstrokes, as well as the 100 freestyle at Phillips 66 Nationals. She also placed second in the 200 freestyle.
2014 Pan Pacific Championships
She competed in many events at 2014 Pan Pacs, most notably winning gold as part of the 800 freestyle relay team. She currently holds the world record in the 200 backstroke, and continues to train and take classes at Cal.
Franklin was the top female recruit in 2013 and expressed interest in the University of Georgia and the University of Southern California before deciding to swim for coach Teri McKeever and the Cal Golden Bears. She enrolled at the University of California Berkeley in fall 2013 with plans to turn professional after two years. Franklin turned down significant sponsorship deals after the 2012 Olympic Games in order to preserve her NCAA eligibility.
At the 2014 NCAA Championships, Franklin won the 200 freestyle and placed second and third in the 500 and 100 freestyles, respectively. Her 200 freestyle time was a new American Record. The Golden Bears finished second overall.
During her sophomore season, Franklin had a year under her belt and was ready to go. This time around she switched up some events, taking out the 500 freestyle in favor of the 200 IM as well as switching from the 100 freestyle to the 200 backstroke. Franklin pulled off a triple-win, and she became the first woman to swim the 200 freestyle in under 1:40 seconds. Cal won the national title, and Franklin declared her decision to turn professional soon after.
As the 2015 NCAA Championships wrapped up, Franklin wasted no time declaring her decision to turn professional. She signed with sports agent Mark Ervin of WME-IMG, an agency in Beverly Hills. Her next big decision was where to train. Her options were to stay at Cal to train with her college team but not compete for them, or to return home to swim for her long time coach Todd Schmitz at Colorado Stars. She chose the latter. Sponsorship deals came fast. She signed deals with Speedo, Minute Maid and GoPro among others.
2015 World Championships
At the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Franklin competed in her signature events. She competed in four individual events — 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter backstroke, and the 100-meter backstroke, picking up a seventh, third, second, and fifth.
Coming off of a recent back injury, which hampered her performance at the 2014 Pan Pacs, Franklin had her best meet of the year bouncing back to a healthy state. She also competed on the USA relays, and anchored the 4×100-meter free relay battling the last 50 meters to hunt down the Netherland’s Femke Heemskerk to win the USA women gold. Coach Todd Schmitz claimed that “the end of that anchor leg was the best last eight meters that Missy’s ever swam in her life.” She also led off the 4×200-meter free relay to aid the USA in another gold-medal win. Switching to the backstroke leg of the relay, Franklin also led off the 4×100-meter medley relay.
Compared to her 2013 World Championships performance, where Franklin had three first-place individual finishes and a fourth-place finish, her finishes were lower in the rankings, but set her on a good path post back injury. She also became the holder of the most world titles by a woman with 11.
2016 US Olympic Trials
Franklin proved the doubters wrong today and secured her spot on the US Olympic Team headed to Rio. Her Second place finish in the 200M Freestyle guarantees her an individual even and a spot on the 4 x 200 Free Relay. Her time of 1:56.18 put her .45 seconds ahead of Leah Smith, the Third place finisher.
Franklin earned a second individual swim for the Olympics, finishing second in the 200M Backstroke to Maya DiRado. Franklin’s time of 2:07.89 was just under a second slower than DiRado’s winning time.
2016 Rio Olympics
Franklin finished 8th in the 200M Free semi-final heat one and 13th overall, failing to qualify for the finals. In the 200M Backstroke, Franklin finished 7th in semifinal heat two, also not qualifying for the finals. In the 4x200M Free Relay, Franklin did earn a gold medal for swimming for the US in the heats, after the US captured gold in the finals.
2018 Mare Nostrum Swim Series
In Canet-en-Roussillon, France, Franklin competed in her first race since Rio after having surgery on both shoulders and admitting a bout with depression.
2018 Summer Nationals
After competing at the Mare Nostrum series, Franklin made her US National return in Irvine. She swam both the 100 (55.33) and 200 free (1:59.25), where she placed 17th and 19th. This was Missy’s first meet back on US soil since 2016 Olympic Trials.
Missy commented that she was very disappointed with her swims, but she realized that this was a stepping stone to the bigger meet in 2 years. Although she’s not where she thought she would be after the 7 months of work she’s put in at Georgia, she’s confident that she’s regaining the love of the sport and headed in the right direction for Tokyo in 2020.
On December 19, 2018, Five-time Olympic champ and 11-time World champ Missy Franklin 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.
Originally developed by Natalie Schumann.