Swim phenoms past, present mark 100 days to London

Gymnast Alaina Williams performs on a trampoline in New York's Times Square during U.S. Olympic Team festivities on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. The event marks 100 days until the London Olympics.
Bebeto Matthews | AP
Gymnast Alaina Williams performs on a trampoline in New York's Times Square during U.S. Olympic Team festivities on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. The event marks 100 days until the London Olympics.
Posted April 18, 2012, at 9:23 p.m.

NEW YORK — Missy Franklin has about five weeks left of her junior year of high school, just over two months before Olympic trials, and 100 days until the London Games.

The 16-year-old swimmer won three gold medals at last summer’s world championships, the kind of performance that makes for a potential breakout star heading into London. Franklin, who lives outside Denver, missed a couple of days of school to travel to Times Square for a U.S. Olympic Committee celebration of Wednesday’s milestone date.

Thrilled that someone found a team jacket with long enough sleeves to fit her 6-foot-1 frame, the teenager breezed her way through interviews and an appearance on stage. Franklin won five medals overall at worlds, including individual gold in the 200-meter backstroke.

She turns 17 on May 10, then her school year finishes at the end of the month — just in time for the final preparations for trials, which begin June 25.

“It’s so nice not having to worry about homework or tests,” Franklin said. “I get so much more sleep not having to stay up late. It’s awesome when I just have to focus on training.”

In 1988, Janet Evans turned 17 just before competing at the Seoul Games, her first meet of that magnitude because the world championships weren’t held in the year before the Olympics back then.

Evans thinks maybe she faced less pressure, but Franklin can’t imagine debuting on that stage at an Olympics.

“I would be super star-struck, just really blown away,” Franklin said. “The fact I have worlds under my belt is huge. I know what it’s like to qualify for a team, then go on training trip with a team, then swim in a meet of that size and that caliber.”

Evans is trying to qualify for London, too — at the age of 40 after a decade-and-a-half in retirement. The four-time Olympic gold medalist shifts between optimism and caution on assessing her chances of accomplishing that. All she knows for sure is she keeps getting faster in practice.

“For the last seven years of my career, I never improved. I broke all my world records between the age of 15 and 17 but I swam till I was 24,” said Evans, who was promoting sponsor BMW’s motion tracking system to help swimmers improve their starts and turns. “Now obviously I’m not going my best times. But every time I swim and do a workout, I get faster. That’s encouraging. It’s not as much fun to train day in and day out when you don’t see improvement.”

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