Missy Franklin Biography

Swimmer, Athlete (1995–)
At the 2012 London Olympics, Missy Franklin won gold in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstrokes, and two more gold medals with the 4-by-200-meter and 4-by-100-meter relay teams.


Melissa "Missy" Franklin was born in Pasadena, California in 1995. She began swimming competitively at age 5, and quickly made a splash on the international scene at the age of 14. Three years later, Franklin competed in her first Olympics in London in 2012, and won four gold medals: one for the 100-meter backstroke, one for the 200-meter backstroke, and two more as part of the 4-by-200-meter relay and 4-by-100-meter relay teams. Franklin's father nicknamed her "Missy the Missile."

Early Life

Melissa Jeanette "Missy" Franklin was born May 10, 1995 in Pasadena, California, and raised in Centennial, Colorado. Her father, Dick, is a consultant, and her mother, D.A., is a physician. Her mother was afraid of the water, so she made sure that Missy learned to swim at an early age so she wouldn't struggle with the same fear.

Swimming Career

Franklin competed in her first international event, Duel in the Pool, in 2009 at just 14, and in 2010 she was named "Breakout Performer of the Year" at the USA Swimming gala, Golden Goggles. In 2011, she completed in her first long course world championship meet and nabbed five medals—three of them gold—and broke her first world record at the FINA World Cup.

The first time Franklin qualified for the Olympics was in 2012, and she went full-throttle, competing in seven events, more than any other U.S. female swimmer in history. In London in 2012, she won three gold medals, one for the 100-meter backstroke, one for the 200-meter backstroke, and a third as part of the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay team. She also won a bronze medal for the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay.

Franklin's gold medal for the 100-meter backstroke was won in the second race of a "double"—two back-to-back races that left Franklin just 14 minutes between her 200-meter freestyle semifinals and her 100-meter backstroke finals. She completed just 25 percent of her typical cool-down swim before jumping back into the pool and winning the gold. For her second gold medal, Franklin, along with teammates Dana Vollmer, Allison Schmitt and Shannon Vreeland, set an Olympic record for the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay, with a time of 7:42.92.

She then beat Russian swimmer Anastasia Zueva to take gold in the 200-meter backstroke, and set a world record in the event. She had been preparing for a close race with American Elizabeth Beisel, who qualified first in the final but finished third in the race. In an interview with USA Today, Franklin detailed her world-record win: "I just wanted to go out there and do my best and do a best time. That just happened to be a world record, so I couldn't be happier."

Franklin won a fourth gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in August 2012, with the U.S. 4-by-100-meter medley relay team.

As Franklin rose to swimming superstardom, she opted not to turn professional, refusing lucrative endorsements, because wanted to swim for a college team. She received a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley where she swam for the California Golden Bears swim team, earning four individual NCAA titles and helping UC Berkeley win the 2015 NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Team Championship. Franklin was also awarded the 2015 Collegiate Woman of the Year and awarded the Honda Cup. 

After the 2015 NCAA Championship, Franklin turned professional and set her sights on competing again at the Olympics. She placed second in the 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter backstroke and qualified for the 4x200 meter freestyle relay team at the 2016 U.S. Olympic swimming trials, but failed to qualify for 100-meter backstroke, which she had dominated at the 2012 Olympics.

At 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, Franklin got off to a disappointing start when she failed to qualify and finished last in her 200-meter freestyle semifinal heat. She sent a message to fans on Twitter about the devastating result: "So heartbroken by my results from last night. Doing everything I can to keep my head up and keep fighting with all I have."

Known for her indomitable team spirit, she cheered on her teammates, including Katie Ledecky, in her next tweet: "I am SO incredibly proud of my teammates and watching them brings me so much joy. I can't wait to watch @katieledecky crush it tonight!"

Personal Life

Franklin was given the nickname "Missy the Missile" by her father before the 2008 Olympic Trials. She initially disliked it and was horrified when he teased that he planned to have hot pink shirts made that had the phrase emblazoned on the back. She has since grown fond of it and has a pair of Nike sneakers with the nickname on them.

In addition to swimming, Franklin is interested in broadcast journalism, majored in psychology, and is known among friends and teammates as someone who never stops smiling. She says she was born to swim at 6'1" tall with a 6'4" wingspan. "I definitely don’t think I would be where I am in swimming without the body that I have," Franklin said in an interview with The Washington Post. "I am so blessed. I have height, the big feet, the big hands; I think all of that has helped me so much."

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