U.S. Olympic Swimmer Missy Franklin, 17, responded just hours after the news broke that that a man opened fire in a crowded movie theater in her hometown of Aurora, Colo. where people had gathered to watch the premier of the newest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Franklin, USA Swimming’s rising star, is slated to compete in seven individual events in the London Olympics, was at the USA Swimming Olympic training camp in Vichy, France when she learned that 12 people had been confirmed dead and approximately 38 wounded.
The shooter, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, was arrested by the police after unleashing tear gas and several rounds of gun fire into the theater at approximately 12:30 a.m. this morning.
Praying for everyone hurt and affected by the theater shooting in Aurora. I'm in total disbelief and shock. Things happen so quickly. #pray— Missy Franklin (@FranklinMissy) July 20, 2012
Todd Schmitz, Franklin's coach since age five at the Colorado Stars club team and an Aurora resident as well, is also at the training camp in Vichy as part of the USA Swimming Coaching staff. He tweeted:
My thoughts are with everyone back in my home of Aurora Colorado. #theatershooting— Todd Schmitz (@starstodd) July 20, 2012
While this is a tragedy for all of America, the ties to Franklin and Schmitz's hometown made it something personal to the USA Swimming Community and its London-bound Olympic swimmers. 2008 gold medalist swimmer and World-Record holder, Ryan Lochte joined the heartfelt Twitter-traffic:
I'm so sorry to hear of the tragedy in Colorado.My prayers are with the families & friends of the victims.— Ryan Lochte (@ryanlochte) July 20, 2012
First-time U.S. Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy added her thoughts and faith:
Sending strength to those affected in Aurora, CO.-Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.-Helen Keller— Jessica Hardy (@swimhardy) July 20, 2012
USA Swimming followed its Olympians, releasing their own statement just hours afterwards:
Our thoughts are with everyone in Colorado after this senseless and horrible tragedy... #Aurora— USA Swimming (@USA_Swimming) July 20, 2012
Swimming World also posted stories and tweets of U.S. Olympic athletes responding to the Aurora tragedy on its website and on Twitter:
Known as the “greatest ambassador” of swimming, former Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines posted to his Twitter:
Sending thoughts and prayers to all affected by this senseless tragedy in Aurora...— Rowdy Gaines (@RowdyGaines) July 20, 2012
With Aurora's population of approximately 325,000 people, it is unknown if Franklin or Schmitz have any personal ties to the victims. Franklin did send out another concerned tweet to @battman17 asking “are you okay?” He responded by saying that he was okay, that while he was slated to attend the film that his plans changed at the last minute.
The 17-year-old rising swimming superstar has withstood a lot of titanic changes in her life this past year, with her mother and her father working tirelessly to support and protect their only child, but how will this impact her renowned cheerful demeanor and focus?
Prior to leaving for training camp in Knoxville, Tenn. and then to Vichy, Schmitz told The Guardian: “We’re going to London, truly having faith in what we’re doing. We’re in shape and we have the physical and mental fortitude.”
Let’s hope so. Things do happen fast and they’ve happened almost as fast as Franklin can swim, so let’s trust that the new golden girl of swimming can keep her eye on the prize, sending hope and faith back to the people of her hometown who are in the midst of a horrific tragedy.