Missy Franklin Battles Back From Depression: GMM presented by SwimOutlet.com

Gold Medal Minute presented by SwimOutlet.com

Five-time Olympic gold medalist, Missy Franklin, struggled through 2016. That was the opening of her message to 75 young women at the LEAD Sports Summit in Austin, Texas, an event designed to empower female athletes in academics, sport and life.

Kara Lynn Joyce, Madisyn Cox, Elizabeth Beisel, Missy Franklin, and Eva Fabian at LEAD Sports Summit

Franklin hide the battle from the media during the Olympic year, suffering through it with her familiar smile.  Franklin explained that two months before the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials she was diagnosed with depression, insomnia, anxiety and an eating disorder.  Franklin was hitting a low when the world and swim fans expected her to rise up.  Despite the challenges, she performed, winning another gold medal, and stepping up as leader and mentor on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. Still, her personal problems remained, further exacerbated by shoulder problems that required surgery. After a break from the pool this past summer, Missy’s back, training with the Cal Golden Bears men’s team under coach Dave Durden.   See the video above and learn more about Franklin’s journey and what she’s learned in the process.

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This is a Gold Medal Media production presented by SwimOutlet.com. Host Gold Medal Mel Stewart is a 3-time Olympic medalist and the co-founder of SwimSwam.com, a Swimming News website.

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Caeleb Dressel WILL get 7 golds in Tokyo

Excited for a comeback!


Missy is awesome.

Mel – I love these videos and your insights are great. Could you maybe have the background music a touch quieter? It almost drowns her out at some points.


It’s sad that swimming sometimes eats its young. 2011 4 x 200 relay: Missy Franklin, Katie Hoff, Dagny Knutson, Allison Schmidt.


It’s not swimming it’s the world. Success brings expectations and when people are young they may not be able to deal effectively with them. Look at those that have early success in show business and some of the troubles they go through.

cynthia curran

Well, Swimming you peak earlier than sports like Track and Field where you are more adult, but any elite sports person is going to feel the pressure.


I agree with you. As a 16 year old swimmer, I can tell you starring a black line for countless hours and the expectations and all the stalkers on Meet Mobile who wonder what is wrong when you add after coach asked you to swim through a meet. I don’t compare my struggle to Missy’s but at every level of swimming there are more parents etc that you all realize who put too much pressure on us. Worse part of swimming – the car ride home.


Did you see the interview where Allison Schmidt told her story (with tears dripping down her cheeks) about driving alone on a snowy road, and thinking maybe she’d drive off the road and crash into a tree?

I think elite swimming can cause mood disorders, with the emotional extremes of competition and the physical pain of hard training.


Yes. I’d like to expand off of this. Six years ago when my (twin) brother and I were still in age group swimming, my brother started to get serious depression. At the time, he was one of the top swimmers for his age, having national top 10 times in multiple events and at one point he was even first in the country for the 200IM and 200Breast for his age. He worked himself harder than anyone I knew – and that’s coming from me who also considers herself an overachiever. At one point my brother just cracked under all the pressure and overdosed on Tylenol and Aspirin. In the hospital, we discovered he had severe depression and anxiety and had… Read more »


Wow, thanks for sharing your brother’s story here! I hope the story had a happy ending and he went on to a happy life after swimming?


Yes, happy ending! My brother made the decision not to swim in college, but he is starting his final year at Columbia University where he is majoring in political science and statistics, and is currently applying to grad school! He is much better now; doing well in college (much better than me!), is in a great relationship, and he just generally seems much happier.

As much as he loved swimming, it was better for him to let it go. Which I think is something many of us struggle with – letting go of something that has given us joy for so long even though you know it might be the right decision.


Thanks for sharing your family’s story, and its happy ending. We depressives are really good–TOO good!–at hiding, under faked, forced smiles. As you no doubt know.

Missy’s a great spokesperson for mental wellness, in addition to its opposite.

ice age swimmer

yes, extreme exercise sometimes uses up hormones (like adrenal and thyroid hormones) faster than you can make more. I went through something similar to what happened to Missy. Adding thyroid hormone without helping the adrenals can actually make it worse. There are books called The Schwartzbein Principle vol. 1 and vol 2 that are written by an endocrinologist that explains this well. Sleep is HUGE and so is blood sugar control. Rhodiola Rosea and Holy Basil are a couple of herbs that can be helpful, along with a hormone doctor, adequate sleep, and a blood sugar controlled diet. Antidepressants alone will NOT solve the underlying problems,


Cal women’s coach eats recruits. Wonder how much depression was caused by her experience with that coach? Missy is not alone. Swimmers have PTSD after living through this “winning” coaching “style”. Franklin is an Olympic gold champion for eternity and she has the heart and soul of a champion. Her future is based on the stellar foundation she built in the past. Her present should be a joyful experience. Go Missy!


If you read Missy’s book, she gives an insider’s look at Teri McKeever.

Teri comes across as a coach who is loyal and supportive, but also kind of controlling and intimidating. She had Missy swim lots of freestyle instead of backstroke because that’s what Cal needed at the time.


As a coach, Missy should have done what the TEAM needed not what she wanted. That is what college swimming is about.

ACC Swimmer

So sick of you TM haters. Get over it! Look deeply at any successful program and there are problem swimmers. It’s the nature of college Swimming.


One person cannot “cause” another person’s depression. It is a complex chemical imbalance inside the brain that we don’t fully understand, we know is influenced by a variety of factors.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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