Happy Birthday Missy Franklin, You’re No Longer an “Age Grouper”

Ok, so we know it’s a little silly. It’s been a long time since Missy Franklin was viewed as ‘just an age group swimmer.’ She’s a four-time Olympic gold medalist, and her 9 long course World Championships are more than any woman in history.

But the fact of the matter is that until today, Missy Franklin has been technically classed as just that: an age group swimmer.

May 10th, 2014, is Franklin’s 19th birthday, which means that she’s no longer eligible for National Age Group Records, at least until she retires and starts going after Masters’ Records.

We first met Franklin when, at 14-years old, she made the United States’ Duel in the Pool team. At the time, she told Sports Illustrated that she was nervous about throwing her stuffed bear into the crowd because “Nobody knows who I am” and “they might throw mine back.”

Fast forward four years, and there’s arguably no more coveted souvenir among the USA Swimming’s young female audience than that from Franklin. She sits atop the most accomplished 18 & under female swimmers ever alongside names like Shane Gould,  Janet Evans, Ye Shiwen and Krisztina Egerszegi on the “Mount Rushmore” of women’s 18 & under swimming.

Like all great swimmers, some of Franklin’s records have already been broken, even by her peers. Simone Manuel got her 100 yard free record, for example. Franklin, however, will end her age group career as the holder of 7 short course and 17 long course National Age Group Records. She holds four American Records to go with it, and those are the marks that could stand for quite a while on the age group books.

Missy’s mom DA Franklin Tweeted today that this will be the first Mothers’ Day that she and her daughter have spent apart, a day after Missy’s 19th birthday. It’s a transition period for the young Franklin. She’s off in college, growing up outside of the watchful eye of her parents. The reality is that it’s been a long time since Franklin ‘grew up’ in swimming; a long time since anybody has thought of Missy Franklin as a teenager; and a long time since she has taken the burden of being the face of women’s swimming in the United States. That makes this birthday competitively little more than clerical, little more than an administrative progression beyond the junior ranks.

But it still is a boundary that’s more than arbitrary. She can’t qualify for Junior World Records, something she’ll never own officially. She can’t qualify for age group records. In other words, to get any record-breaking headlines, it’s gotta be American or World, faster than anybody of any age of any time period. That’s a transition, and new pressure. There’s less to feed the brain’s reward centers, you can no longer be impressive just for being young and fast, you have to be impressive for being fast, period.

But with already so much experience nationally and internationally, with the media, with the fans, that’s not necessarily a change for Franklin, and as much as it is a change, she’s well-equipped to handle it.

Happy Birthday Missy! Onward to Rio

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8 years ago

I love you and you are my hero i wish you luck in the summer olympics.

ER
8 years ago

Only American and world records? What about UC, Pac 12, and NCAA? Perhaps those don’t count(!)?

8 years ago

“and her 9 long course World Championships are more than any woman in history.”

Wow I wasn’t aware of this. I tried to disprove it, but failed miserably. Not bad to break such a record at age 18. Interestingly, men seem to do better in this department. In sports like tennis it’s the other way around.

Reply to  Lennart van Haaften
8 years ago

HistoFINA has Trickett at 9 as well, but that’s wrong (the 4×100 medley in 2009 was won by China, not Australia) See http://www.fina.org/H2O/docs/histofina/swimming_wch.pdf page 49

aswimfan
Reply to  Lennart van Haaften
8 years ago

Before 2001, World (LC) championships was mostly only held every four years, some were three years in between and one was even between 5 years (1986 and 1991 worlds).

Missy’s record is amazing, but who knows how many worlds medals would swimmers like Gould, Caulkins, Egerszegi, Babashoff had they swum 2 worlds before they turned 19 and/or swum for USA and/or no chemically enhanced east germans?

Reply to  aswimfan
8 years ago

True, the increased frequency of these meets is an important bias. To a lesser degree also the increased number of events (like women’s 4×200 free relay, 800/1500 free), though the stroke 50s are typically too short for these multi-eventers). Still, five men have 10 or more world titles, all won in 1998 and later (Phelps, Lochte, Peirsol, Hackett, Thorpe), and so far no women have followed.

Egerszegi won only 2 world titles, so the frequency can’t have been the main reason for her. Babashoff, also 2 titles, really suffered from the GDR.

By the way, it’s remarkable that Dara Torres has 0 world titles, just 1 silver medal.

aswimfan
Reply to  Lennart van Haaften
8 years ago

There was no world championships between 1986 and 1991, so that’s one factor.
also, Egerszegi did not swim for a powerful swimming country like USA where relay medals are guaranteed.
In addition, 1994 Rome was dominated by super chemically enhanced chinese female swimmers.

I maybe wrong, but I think the only world championships Dara Torres competed in was 1986 Madrid

Jay
8 years ago

I was surprised you left Tracy Caulkins off Mt Rushmore. Although she didn’t win Olympic gold until age 21, she certainly put in some of her biggest days well before 18. World Championships 1978?

aswimfan
Reply to  Jay
8 years ago

In my opinion, Tracy Caulkins’ 1978 Berlin is the greatest individual female performance at a world championships, just like Gould’s 1972 Munich is the greatest individual female performance at an Olympics.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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