Missy Franklin: Golden Girl of the 2012 London Olympics


It all starts with that smile. The smile of joy and accomplishment, the smile of a 17 year old realizing, "I did it.� It�s a surefire grin from a young woman fulfilling her dreams, doing it in her own fashion, and having fun along the way.

The smile I'm describing belongs to Missy Franklin. She’s the golden girl of the Olympics swimming in a record seven events, and winning an impressive four gold medals. In addition, Missy set an individual world record in the 200m backstroke and helped the American relay team set a new world record in the 4x100m medley relay.

In my opinion, Missy is a remarkable young woman, and I�m not just referring to her athletic accomplishments. Watching this swimmer reveal her personality and witnessing her sense of humor, which sometimes even includes showing off her dance moves, has been a real treat. Like many other 17-year-old high school students, Missy takes her academic studies seriously and is involved in extracurricular activities. It just so happens her extracurricular activities include competing and winning medals. When Missy begins her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado this fall, I wonder how her "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" report will read?

Yes, Missy attends high school in Aurora where the recent massacre at the Batman movie took place. Missy was deeply affected by the tragedy, and took it upon herself to swim for her community. What a remarkable contrast! One resident seeks to destroy, while another manages to uplift. When so many young people today seem directionless, full of anger, and materialistic, why is Missy so different?

The unwavering support of her parents throughout her journey might be the difference. Missy has also made another decision that is well, remarkable. She refused all prize money from her events so she can maintain her amateur status and swim in college. Isn’t the point of school to educate oneself and then find a way to be financially independent? Olympic gold usually translates into millions of dollars for athletes, but Missy recently restated her intention to remain an amateur and not accept any endorsement or promotional monies.

It really is quite a concept, putting the focus squarely on happiness. Happiness through enjoying the journey of one’s life, shaped by one’s decisions and experiences, not by the pursuit of materialism. It’s truly refreshing to see someone with a determined mindset as a teenager, enjoying just being a teenager. We can only hope that other youth will be inspired to channel all that energy into positive accomplishments along with a steadfast ability to enjoy the journey of life and pursue happiness.

So, thank you Missy for sharing your golden heart and smile with the world. Congratulations on your four gold medals and that new individual world record. Hope you have a great senior year!

Images courtesy of Abcnews.go.com, Businessinsider.com

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