Missy Franklin: How American Star Will Transform the Face of Swimming

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  Missy Franklin of the United States celebrates with her gold medal during the medal ceremony for the Women's 100m Backstroke on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 30, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Missy Franklin has won two medals in two events this summer, and her Olympic run is just beginning. This is just the start of an illustrious career for this 17-year-old sensation.

Franklin will transform the face of her sport. It sounds dramatic, but it's true. She has two more events remaining in London, but her Olympic journey is just beginning. As a 17-year-old, she's still learning how to compete on an international stage. She's still figuring out what it takes to win in the world's biggest events. 

Those things come with experience, and that's what's scary. Franklin is winning events over more seasoned competitors. Michael Phelps did the same thing as he was emerging at the 2003 World Championships, and he's the current face of swimming.

That gives you a good clue as to Franklin's career arc. She's poised to take the torch from Phelps as the world's preeminent swimmer, and we can't say we didn't see it coming. She won five medals at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, and three of those were golds. She's doing things that most teenage girls would never dream of doing, and she's just beginning to scratch the surface.

Look at it this way. In 2004 Phelps indubitably emerged as the world's best swimmer. He was 20 years old. Franklin isn't going to win six gold medals like Phelps did that year, but she is still three years younger. She's on an incredible pace, and she could conceivably appear in three more Olympic Games before her swimming career is over.

Phelps has been the face of swimming since 2004. Franklin is going to change that starting this year, and it will continue into the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. She's doing things that he didn't do at this age.

It's refreshing to see another face emerge in the swimming world. Franklin's presence reestablishes American women among the world's best amphibious humans, and it takes the power back from the men's side. Not that the men's side isn't talented, but Franklin is going to be the swimmer to watch for years to come.

Phelps' run was unprecedented. Franklin may never match his success, but she's changing the face of swimming as each moment passes. At 17 years old, she's doing things that the greatest Olympic athlete of all time didn't do.

How's that for changing the face of swimming?