10 Minutes With Missy Franklin: ‘no matter what … I am still an incredible person’

Missy Franklin - main image  by Peter Bick; inset, the prospective cover of "relentless" from Random House
Missy Franklin - main image by Peter Bick; inset, the prospective cover of "relentless" from Random House

Not often that a big hug precedes an interview but then we’re talking Missy Franklin, a person who beams feel-good rays powerful enough to make the sun blush. Here’s what happened last time we met and had just over 10 minutes …

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ThereaLuigi

I have always felt that criticism thrown at Teri McKeever by some swim fans was unfair. As if she was the real cause behind Missy Franklyn’s less than stellar results in LCM after 2013 (for her standards). This is the same coach that coached Natalie Coughlin to greatness. She was the head coach of the US women swimming expedition in London and it didn’t go so bad as far as I recall.

aswimfan

It’s interesting to know that coming back to Colorado was never the plan.

So my guess is that the original plan was to stick with graduate group at CAL, or is there any?
And what made her change her mind?

I think they saw the value of living and training in altitude.

aswimfan

ThereaLuigi,

yes, much of the criticism against mcKeever is quite unfair. Not only Coughlin, but she also coached Leverenz to surprise bronze in London and a PB by a lot.

However, there is some base that support the cirticism, where recently, many top recruits not only did not improve much while in CAL, but has regressed, eg. Boostma, Pelton, Garcia. On the other hand, some swimmers have been thriving, such as Farida Osman.

With MIssy, her LCM have regressed, but her SCY actually went faster in the two years.

Craig Lord

Altitude one factor; best live/work environment at a time of going pro and having to have someone there to deal with all that entails, the deals, arrangements, the control, care, support on the way to Rio 2016 (and the influence of USA Swimming, as I understand it); the writing of the book together, all among factors that led to the decision, aswimfan.

Craig Lord

Unfair, Therealuigi, and somewhat illogical, the archive stacked with praise for McKeever, from her swimmers, other swimmers on national team, coaches and administrators in 2011-2013. I would imagine the same good work that was going on then is going on now – results are harder to guarantee, swimmer to swimmer, not only program to program.

DDias

aswimfan,
I don’t think Teri is the problem.But I think Cal weights(dry land) program needs a recall.A lot of minor injuries and swimmers under performing.

Bad Anon

I think Missy’s loss to Seebohm on in Kazan especially in her pet event ~200back was a blessing. It definitely motivation for Rio to really cement herself as the greatest ever ; a threepeat very possible in the foot steps of Ergezegi. Seebohm’s 2.05.81 not insanely fast by Missy’s lofty standard of 2.04.06., though Seebohm is the fastest ever in textile 200back barring Missy… Good races ahead ; USA trials will be interesting though I’m certain 100/200back and 200free in the bag for Missy at trials; Rio will be competitive

Yozhik

@ThereaLuigi: How can we measure the quality of coaching job? At previous articles Craig gave us a hint. That is by the success of his/her swimmers. If to follow this approach then we have three options to explain current situation with Franklin
1. The coach never consider Franklin her swimmer in terms of supporting her development as LCM world class swimmer and wasn’t a personal trainer. So she is not responsible for the after college problems.
2. If something genetically programmed is happening within swimmer’s body it doesn’t matter what the coach does to help it and who the coach is. So she is not responsible for Missy’s slow down at LCM.
3. The coach’s job was not of high quality.

My opinion is that 2014 PP accident had serious consequences both physical and mental. It happened because Franklin wasn’t properly prepared for this meet. In my opinion It was entirely coach’s responsibility.

Craig told us that FRANKLIN had back problem even before college but it didn’t stop her to have historical success in London and Barcelona. She was the best in college under McKeever’s watch. But it looks like nobody cared about 2014 PP. Whom to blame on this accident? I would say – coach.

Craig Lord

You say, Yozhik, but you don’t know… and no-one close to the situation who would actually know has confirmed anything of the kind that relates the back injury directly to the coach’s work – as far as I am aware there is nothing on the record. I have not asked the direct question of coach McKeever but should the chance arise I shall. I have, however, spoken to sources close to the situation who call the criticism not only unfair but inaccurate (and have said more besides that tells me some of the lines out there are pure hogwash and deserve to be ignored). Meanwhile, the coach in question has also been cited for taking great care on athlete welfare and not only in the pool, as noted in this interview at USA Swimming last year, for example:

Not only that, your coaching style has allowed a lot of people to swim a lot longer with fewer injuries in some cases, right?
Teri: And the distance is important – you have to do the work. But yes, I do think what is happening there is some workout and technical pieces have allowed some people to extend their careers. I also think there is a way of looking at the sport like, “It’s not who you are,” but it’s “what you do.” Swimming is big, but there are other things; those other “things” help swimming, and vice versa. What it means for each individual is that it is a way to enhance their lives, and to make it more fulfilling and enjoyable. And if you can keep going and keep learning about yourself and swimming fast, you can go as long as you want.

Yozhik

Yes, Craig. I don’t know. Should I know I won’t be writing here but will be the head coach of all head coaches. I don’t even know if this spasm that happened back in 2014 is responsible for whatever is going on with Franklin. People are saying (including you) that that is the reason and I am just following the crowd. But if it is indeed so, then I wouldn’t say that we are dealing with mishap that can happen to anybody. Muscle spasm is not a new problem in swimming. The coach has to prevent such things to happen. It is a routine part of his/her job. If a child hurt himself badly playing on playground in the park, then the adult is responsible whose care this child was under. It doesn’t matter if it is a usual place for playing for many children with all safety precautions in place. It doesn’t matter if this person has a proven records of excellent childcare. In this case he failed and he is responsible. Not the child.

Yozhik

Honestly speaking I am not sure what kind of problem we are discussing here. Why are we talking about Franklin’s general slowdown? Her freestyle in 2015 is still at the level where she was before: 53.6 and 1:55.4. Not her personal bests but a pretty decent times considering the circumstances of her preparation for WC. How to qualify her step back at back stroke I don’t know and will not speculate if it is the consequence of her training program at college.

Craig Lord

Yozhik, to know does not require you to be a head coach. It requires transparency and a willingness to explain if indeed any explanation is required. Since this athlete’s own parents and coaches and federation are not standing in a courtroom and have not raised the issue in any hostile manner, I would suggest the issue is not one where ‘blame’ applies. My understanding is that this is not just a spasm. And no, I’m not going to discuss that further here – knowledge not speculation is what would be due – and some of what I have been told is told to me in confidence and will remain confidential. The speculation out there has been described by people in the know as unfair and inaccurate. I wouldn’t wish to contribute to that.

Craig Lord

There are any number of reasons why a world-record holder spends a couple of seasons off that best pace; some get back and go on, some never do get back, some remain competitive in the fastest waters, other do not. The sport is stacked high with such things and while there the many case4s may have generalities in common, reasons comes down to individuals and individual circumstances. I think this swimmer was doing her best and is still doing the best she can, which is right up there.

Yozhik

I think that she is tough enough and can spend the entire pre-Olympic period without wins saving it for decisive moments. But should I was her coach I put her in the meets where she wins. She sounds wise and mature but doesn’t sounds happy. Positive emotions will bring her smile and confidence back. But I am not her coach and sincerely believe that he knows what he is doing and doesn’t need someone else’s advices.

ThereaLuigi

Well if success of a coach is measured by success of that coach’s athletes, Yozhik, McKeever’s record makes her a superb coach. Or would you measure success swimmer by swimmer? Because in that case I can tell you that you would get a very confusing picture: any coach you can think of would be both a good or even great coach and a bad one at the same time (think Bowman with Phelps and Agnel)! 🙂
Since we have no direct knowledge of the facts surrounding Missy’s injury and subsequent struggles, we can only infer conclusions from what the people who know did or said. In that respect I have yet to hear a word of bitterness, anger or complaint against ms McKeever from Missy, her parents and her camp in general.

Then, there is the question of whether swimming yards hurts Lcm performance. I believe it does sometimes, and the longer the distance the more severe the effect. But you can’t blame the coach there: she is paid to produce results in the Ncaa.

Yozhik

@Luigi, I don’t know how to measure the quality of coaching job. I don’t know how to measure because this process is not repeatable and “what if” scenarios are not applicable. What if Phelps had another coach? Maybe we saw the world record at 400 fs. Or maybe he showed nothing and quit at age of 20. Who knows?
Is Yuri Suguiyama a good coach? Yes and no. Yes, because under his care Ledecky won sensational Olympic gold at 800. No because he didn’t recognize by his words that this girl was already unparalleled dominant swimmer capable to set the world record and to beat the second place finalist by more than 4 seconds. The 14 yo girl is dreaming about Olympic team – sure why not. Who doesn’t? His major concern was to make her ready mentally to compete at big meet like Olympic trials. The Olympic Game by itself wasn’t a target. As a result Ledecky missed 400 race where she was up to the challenge of competing with Muffat and Schmitt.

Yozhik

@Luigi, I know nothing about Teri McKeever training style, programs, personal quality etc. to judge her as a coach. But when I hear from Todd Schmitz that Missy just needs additional day-to-day back muscles exercises to keep the problem under control, then I making a conclusion that Teri didn’t care much about such exercises in summer 2014 when there is no college meets. It is my guess only, not a fact. But if it is so then that is entirely coach fault. The fact that she is not paid to care about swimmers in off-season time is not an excuse in my opinion when you got under your care two times best swimmer of the year. Some moral obligations. Kind of.
Regarding short-long course combinations. Some first class swimmers like Sjostrom or Hosszu don’t have any problem with that. If Cal’s training process for SCY excludes the progress at LCM then the coach is obliged morally to warn the swimmer and her parents that she will never be the same 🙂
All these talks are just talks and are not facts. Craig knows true story, but doesn’t want to share and keeps it secret 🙂

Craig Lord

Yozhik, not a question of wanting to keep it secret. Sometimes, information is passed on in confidence to journalists so that they don’t write the kind of nonsense that appears on forums, as has been the case with Missy. Knowing the precise circumstance of an injury and the subsequent medical diagnosis and treatment is not always something that people want to share so that that can become the subject of even more speculation. Conclusions such as ‘Teri didn’t care much’ border on an accusation that would be actionable. Your guess is like saying ‘I’ve no idea if the priest was a molester but I think he might have been’… I’d avoid that if I were you 🙂

aswimfan

Yozhik,

Now you are speculating about Yuri Sugiyma not preparing Ledecky for 400 in 2012. I guess you know better about Ledecky before 2012 than Sugiyama did.

As for what Craig said about top CAL swimmers having long career, it’s true: Coughlin, Vollmer, Leverenz.

Yozhik

Ok, Craig it wasn’t Teri who let this happen. But we are living in cause-effect world and it is in human nature to ask ‘Why has it hapened’. The coach is the first person who should know. Teri didn’t know. Todd does know. Why don’t they share this knowledge between each other. Todd managed the problem before and after college (no reported occurrences). Under Teri’s watch it has happened.
I was joking about you keeping secrets. If you got offended, please excuse me.
P.s.
BTW prists do molest children. We have Oscar winning movie this year right about this.

Yozhik

Asf, I am not speculating about Siguiyama, I am telling my opinion based on information told by Yuri Suguiyama and Ledecky’s splits during her Olympic race. She was ready to compete and medal at 400. Why didn’t it happen?
If the coach is the first person to be credited following swimmer’s success then the coach should be the first person to be criticised in the case of swimmer’s failure.
I had no idea about existence of Katie Ledecky prior 2012. I do know a lot about her since then.

commonwombat

There seems to be one key element that people seem to be overlooking when it comes to the coach/athlete-swimmer relationship and its the one that is an “intangible”. Namely that of personal chemistry/squad culture. Please note that this is NOT necessarily pointed at the Franklin/McKeever discussion.

A coach may have an absolutely outstanding record yet it is inevitable that they will have their share of “misses” along with their star pupils.

People’s psyches are individual and two different people may have two completely different reactions to the manner and practices of any given individual. There is always going to be an adjustment period when someone moves from a situation where they have been long accustomed to someone else’s regime and mutual understanding needs to be developed.

Sometimes that full adjustment is never completed and/or that understanding never fully develops. Its not always a case of either party being in the wrong but rather a case that they just don’t “click” as people.

With collegiate swimming, even for American swimmers, there can be a culture shock of moving to a new environment often in a completely different part of the country. Not only are they “uprooted” from their old support network but the prevailing country in that city/state may be very very different to what they are accustomed. This can be just as valid for American swimmer as it is for overseas recruits.

Craig Lord

The exchange of knowledge is important and it is right to raise such questions, Yozhik – but without answers it is unwise to state that a particular coach was negligent in some way, unless you know it or unless there is a direct accusation of such from one of those involved. On priests, of course – and coaches have too – it doesn’t make all priests and all coaches molesters and criminals.

Yozhik

Craig you are right, I am wrong.
” … and I say to myself What a wonderful World! “

Craig Lord

The world is indeed wonderful, Yozhik but not all the time and not in every corner… and it would be good to see forums full of ‘what’s up with Missy’s back’ and ‘lets blame Teri’ ask some deeper questions about what goes on in the sports they follow – there really are much bigger problems.

Eugene Chc

Apparently, if Rio result also be poor, then it will be Teri failure. And coach Schmitz did everything right,

ThereaLuigi

Who knows, maybe we’ll learn something new about the period she swam in NCAA in her biography 🙂

Ger

Missy Franklin speaking yesterday before the Orlando meet: https://www.facebook.com/USAswimming/videos/10153936962001069/

gheko

wonderful people do not say they are wonderful makes me want to puke!

paolo rubbiani

About McKeever’s failures, there is a strong case forgotten by everything: Sara Isakovic,
The Slovenian swimmer (born in 1988 like Pellegrini) had an overwhelming 2008 under the guidance of his Slovenian coach with strong PBs in a lot of distances (100, 200, 400 free, 100 and 200 fly), won the European title in 200 free and above all the great silver medal at Beijing2008 in 200 free with a 1.54.97 also more valuable if we remind that Isakovic was the lone finalist with a textile suit (Arena R-evolution).
Then she went to Cal and her swimming career suffered an impressive blow.., never seen an athlete in such an increasing trajectory, like Isakovic was in 2008, got worse in a similar way..
About Franklin anf her Cal’s experience, it’s clear that she’d never speak in a less than polite way about..everything and everyone, but her decision to stop her swimming experience at Cal after two years, to return to training with Schmitz, is highly significant.

Craig Lord

Gheko, not sure if you’re referring to the headline or not but if you are, then to be clear… the quote is that whatever happens, her parents always told her, you will still be an incredible person…. the words are not Missy’s self-description, they are what her parents told her to show how much she is loved and always will be, come what may.

Craig Lord

Paolo, that can be just as much as case of swimmer failure/climate failure etc as coach failure. Legion the folk who have failed when they went to America to college – and lots who stepped up, too… coached by the same coaches. The picture is more complex than swimmer failed, must be coach fault; just as swimmer succeeds but not ONLy because of the coach – many factors involved (and wide spectrum of difference in cases), as we know.

paolo rubbiani

@Craig: all right and “politically correct”, but it was absolutely impressive seeing a swimmer in her prime-time (20-year-old), Olympic medalist and in a very strong improving path (not only in the 200 free), have a real “swimming default”, like Isakovic did after she went to Cal.

Felix Sanchez

The discussion of McKeever’s job with Franklin is always going to be shadowed by the discussion of whether she should have swum NCAA in the first place. Those who disagreed with the Cal move are maybe not going to give McKeever the most sympathetic reading.

While there are unsubstantiated accusations, it is hard to believe that Franklin couldn’t have done something better.

paolo rubbiani

“En passant”.., I think that Natalie Coughlin is a rare “swimming genius”: I just remind that in 2002, at 20 year-old, in LC she swam 59.58 in 100 back (huge WR), 57.88 in 100 fly and 53.99 in 100 free.
She had astonishing swimming skills, a natural gift for speed at least in 3 strokes like I never saw on the women’s side (in SCY she swam in the first 2000s times like 46″84 in 100 free, 49″97 in the 100 back and 50″01 in the 100 fly which are still at the top of the rankings).
Well, one could say that a swimming genius like Coughlin could have won also more medals with another coach..; I simply note that, like Craig wrote above, “the picture is more complex than swimmer failed, must be coach fault; just as swimmer succeeds but not ONLY because of the coach – many factors involved (and wide spectrum of difference in cases), as we know”.
So, pondering the cases and just to chat in a swimming forum: in my opinion Coughlin successes are less significant (because of Coughlin immense talent) than Isakovic total failure.

Craig Lord

Felix, fair to note that it was Missy Franklin’s choice – and it is Missy Franklin saying she would have done the same thing a million times over – given it is her life, I think that deserves respect, not the kind of extreme-remote speculation and criticism we’ve seen.

Craig Lord

Paolo, I saw the same thing but I wouldn’t know the reasons why – and feel sure it wasn’t just the coaching (if the coaching at all)

aswimfan

I strongly disagreed with Franklin swimming NCAA. But I am symphatetic towards Mckeever. She was hired by CAL to be college swimming coach, and she delivered several NCAA national titles. She did her job.

Paolo,
The decision to swim in CAL for only two years was made AND published BEFORE MIssy event when to CAL. She and her family announced this during the announcement of the signing.

Felix Sanchez

Certainly Franklin’s choice, but I think many will continue to consider it the wrong choice despite her protestations. After all – as illustrated here – she’s an incredibly positive person.

Craig Lord

Indeed, Felix – though I don’t hear her making protestations – and none who are are folk with five Olympic medals, four of those gold, and 11 gold medals at world championships already in the bag. It is possible to see the world with a wider perspective than medal tallies and prospects in the pool. I think she’ll do well in the pool yet – and will be all the better out of it for her choices come the hour.

Felix Sanchez

As do I. By protestations I mean simply the million times over type comment.

While wider perspective versus medal tally is an easy point to make, we should also be careful not to allow the NCAA complete claim on the wider perspective high ground. I think many of us believe it plays a useful function, but is simply not the place for those who are already world beaters.

Craig Lord

I agree with that in terms of the NCAA, felix – their rules are arcane and unhelpful to great swimmers who want to train on and excel through their college years (possible to do that and lots of examples). My perspective was the brain she will apply in her life beyond the pool. At 20 going on 21 she will return to study after Rio with much done, whereas she would only just be setting out in college at that age (a spring chicken, of course..) had she waited. Arguments both ways. I don’t say one choice is better than another but the choice was her’s – with the support of all close and around her. Looking at her age and physical change, I think she’s actually come through the transition years that so many struggle with in good shape, her 200m in Kazan, the way she swam, the way she fought and competed right into the wall, a good measure in the mix.

Felix Sanchez

I tend to think the other way. The NCAA should maintain their amateur rules (I suppose they need to with an eye on other sports), but it’s just not the place for Franklin and Ledecky. We can’t let them claim ‘the value of education’ argument though. Franklin could train and study on all that prize money she turned down. The argument shouldn’t involve education or lifestyle, or even money really (which can pay for both); what’s happening – what’s disappointing – is the brightest stars of our sport allowing a desire to compete in an amateur competition (a competition which has value, but is below them) to affect their decisions at all.

Craig Lord

All have a right to race where they wish Felix – and their choices are not based on swimming alone … and if all those world-class swimmers went missing, it would all be even less than it is in terms of standards (a good deal of college swimming is no better than many thousands of galas and meets around the world at local level – it is just more hyped … and cared for in the USA… and one of the positives of that for USA has been the competitiveness and challenge and lessons of it all and what that has meant for results on a global level.Obvious examples of where that wasn’t the case but those are hardly the point. There’s also much to be said for not chasing the money but the experience that would not be had.

ThereaLuigi

I think you need to be American to understand the fascination for NCAA swimming. I have no particular taste for SCY swimming, but I respect their point of view.

beachmouse

Coughlin was also a teenage burnout who was probably giving serious consideration to giving up the sport before she decided to go on to Cal. With a different coach, it was more likely that she wouldn’t have made it past 2004 than she would have done faster things.

Craig Lord

I think any who participate, whether American or not, can get it and benefit from it, ThereaL (not all who go that way do)… Gemma Spofforth, Simon Burnett etc come to mind in terms of Brits/Europeans… but like the proverbial joke, you have to be there to get it.

Yozhik

Whoever is arguing here about Franklin’s values, problems, choices etc I strongly recommend to read commonwombat’s last posting at http://www.swimvortex.com/michael-phelps-katie-ledecky-taking-on-adjusted-schedules-at-orlando-pro-series-stop/
We may make more drama about pretty much typical situation in competitive swimming than it actually is. I would rather not summarize here what he said because in my interpretation it will sound cynical. But being wrapped in the commonwombat’s wording it all make sense. It least to me.

ThereaLuigi

Well Craig of course for an European there always is something to take from the experience. For example I think NCAA is the best school in the world to learn about dives and turns, which are so important in those SCY races. I was rather referring to the fact that even swimmers with Olympic hopes AND sponsors at their feet may want to have the experience and jeopardize all that. I am not sure about the education argument because you can always get an education. So it must be the NCAA experience and all that. But I will be the first to tell you I don’t know much about NCAA.

Craig Lord

Yes, ThereaL – and I don’t just mean academics and studying nor just the NCAA bit – there is a whole package of experience in being away from home at a time of new lessons in classroom, pool home and the places in between. Franklin alludes to that and what it may deliver.

gheko

Sorry Craig I misunderstood the message in the article, Best wishes to Missy and her family!

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