Missy Franklin's Showing at 2013 World Swimming Championships Proves Stardom

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JULY 31:  (L-R) Silver medal winner Federica Pellegrini of Italy, Gold medal winner Missy Franklin of the USA and Bronze medal winner Camille Muffat of France celebrate on the podium after the Swimming Women's 200m Freestyle Final on day twelve of the 15th FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi on July 31, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Move over Michael Phelps—Missy Franklin is establishing herself as USA Swimming's biggest star after her performance at the 2013 World Swimming Championships. 

The 28-year-old Phelps had been the longtime face of USA Swimming, but with his retirement from competitive swimming after the 2012 games, the unofficial title has been left vacant.

That is, until Franklin claims it.

The phenom burst onto the scene at the 2012 Olympics with four gold medals, as the U.S. once again dominated the pool. Now she's proving that she's prepared to continue her medal-hoarding ways for the long haul at the World Championships in Barcelona. 

She already has five gold medals at this year's event with a chance to gain a record-tying sixth on Sunday when she competes in the 400-meter medley relay. Only swimming legends Phelps and Mark Spitz have ever won six golds in either the Olympics or World Championships, per ESPN.

Combined with her three gold medals in the 2011 World Championships, she has already tied Natalie Coughlin's career record for women, according to USA Swimming. 

To top it all off, she's only 18 years old. Her career is just getting started. 

Franklin is already popular thanks to her current success. She has more than 350,000 followers on Twitter and fans all over the country.

For some perspective on what that number means in terms of popularity, Coughlin, who parlayed her successful swimming career into an appearance on Dancing with the Stars and a photo shoot for the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, has just over 100,000 followers

As Franklin continues to rack up the medals on swimming's biggest stages, her popularity is only going to multiply. Everyone loves a winner, and there's no greater winner in swimming right now. 

Stars like Ryan Lochte, who has two gold medals at the World Championships, can try to fill the void left behind by Phelps, but Franklin's proven results and youth make her the top candidate to be USA Swimming's brightest star when the team looks to dominate the pools of Rio de Janeiro in 2016.