Barcelona: Missy Franklin has already equalled the women’s record for the most World Championship gold of nine and the six she claimed in Barcelona were more than any female swimmer has won before at a single edition.
It is small wonder one breathless rival dubbed the teenager a “wonder woman without a cape”.
After blazing a trail in the Catalan capital, following up on her four gold and a bronze at last year’s London Olympics, the perpetually chirpy 18-year-old from Colorado is poised to embark on a new adventure at the University of California at Berkeley in a few weeks.
If all goes well she can expect another hatful of medals at the next World Championships in Kazan in 2015 before gearing up for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro a year later.
She has spent more than a decade with coach Todd Schmitz but will now join up with Teri McKeever at Berkeley’s prestigious facilities and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer and Jessica Hardy.
Franklin’s exploits here have inevitably prompted comparisons with decorated compatriot Michael Phelps, though she still has some way to go to match his 18 Olympic gold and 26 world championship titles.
Phelps won seven titles at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne before his astonishing haul of eight gold at the Olympics in Beijing a year later.
Asked on Sunday whether she was ready to step into Phelps’ shoes as the new face of swimming, Franklin said she wanted to make her own mark.
“I just feel like Missy,” she told a news conference.
“I think that’s all I ever want to be is just Missy. I don’t want to take after someone else because everyone leaves their own unique mark and no one will ever do what Michael did and how Michael did it.
“It’s been incredible watching him and I kind of have my own unique traits that make me known for just being me in the swimming world instead of anyone else.”
She was also quizzed about what she has that sets her apart from other swimmers.
At around 6-feet-1, with a “wing span” of some six feet four and size 13 shoes she admitted before the championships she was “a bit different than your average 18-year-old girl”.
“It was actually kind of difficult growing up and being a little bit different than everyone else, always being a head above the boys,” she said.
“It’s such an incredible blessing to be born with what I have been born with because I don’t think I would be sitting here today if I didn’t have the genes.”
“My most challenging race here was probably the 100 metres freestyle,” she said
Australia’s Cate Campbell took gold in that race and joked with reporters that Franklin's prowess “terrified” her. “She’s wonder woman without a cape,” the 21-year-old said. “Honestly I’m exhausted just watching her. She's definitely given me the motivation to go and train just a little bit harder.” (Reuters)