Expectations are extremely high for U.S. swimming star Missy Franklin this summer. Touted as women's swimming's answer to Michael Phelps, the hype is hard for her to avoid.
Apparently, she's grown quite comfortable with all the accolades.
Franklin kept years worth of momentum moving forward on Tuesday evening, winning her 100-meter backstroke semifinal at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. The 17-year-old cruised past fellow Olympic hopefuls including Natalie Coughlin, taking the top spot with a time of 59.06 seconds.
"Missy the Missile" surged in the spotlight and continues to gain steam as Team USA's top newcomer at the 2012 Olympics. The Colorado native, who earned five medals,at the 2011 FINA World Championships, looked ready for prime time on Tuesday.
Franklin raced directly next to Coughlin, the two-time Olympian and defending gold medalist, but it didn't seem to phase her. Coughlin managed to qualify for Wednesday night's final with a time of 1:01.31.
That was Coughlin's fastest time of the year, yet that performance still only brought her within two seconds of Franklin. That bodes well for the young phenom as she faces mounting pressure to return home from London with multiple medals around her neck.
Phelps has already called Franklin a "stud" so it's hard to keep rationale and remember that this is her inaugural foray through the Olympic-hype machine. On Tuesday, Franklin channeled any nerves she may have experienced into adrenaline, and it paved the way to yet another prodigious performance:
Going out there is such an adrenaline rush," she told John Henderson of The Denver Post. "The first 50 you really feel it. I always love coming home (to the finish), especially with that big TV thing on the top underneath (the roof). They have 'United States Olympic Team.' Talk about motivation. That definitely gets my tempo up the last 25.
If Franklin carries that kind of emotion and national pride with her through the rest of the Olympic Trials and into the London Games, expect her to emerge as more than a medalist. She seems to be on an undeniable path to become one of America's athletic media darlings, a la Carly Patterson or Alex Morgan.
Franklin will be busy in Omaha. She is the top-seeded competitor in the 200 back, 100 freestyle and 200 free and has a chance to make three Olympic relay squads.
Could this high school junior truly be a contender to win six or more medals in her first Olympic appearance?
Stay tuned, and try not to blink.