No. 4: Missy Franklin Wins Five Olympic Medals and Becomes America’s Sweetheart

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At the age of 17, Missy Franklin stepped onto the world stage at the 2012 Summer Olympics and, after much publicity, already had the weight of the world on her shoulders. After a bronze medal as part of the 4x100m freestyle relay, Missy swam to her first individual gold medal in the 100m backstroke. She then broke her first Olympic record in her next event leading off the 4x200m freestyle relay team on the way to her second gold. In her next two events, Missy completed her transformation into America’s sweetheart by winning two more gold medals and breaking two world records in the 200m backstroke, her specialty, and 4x100m medley relay.

“Very often in swimming, and in sports in general, we can overhype someone that ends up disappointing us on many different levels, but Missy is that rare athlete that has that combination of everything you’re looking for in an athlete and more importantly in a human being. She is somebody that comes along once in a generation. She has the physical stature, and she’s incredibly versatile, but she is also very humble, eloquent and full of grace. And she’s just relishing this role, as she should, of being the new diva of swimming. It’s a great combination for success, and with Michael Phelps’ retirement, her timing is impeccable for the sport of swimming. I hope the best for her.”

- Rowdy Gaines – Universal Sports Swimming Analyst and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist