Missy Franklin won gold in her first individual event final at the Olympics when she won the 100 meter backstroke Monday in London.
Franklin — a 17-year-old who attends Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School — topped a loaded field by touching the wall in 58.33 seconds, setting an American record and putting 0.35 of a second between herself and runner-up Emily Seebohm of Australia.
Aya Terakawa of Japan was third.
“Indescribable,” Franklin told the press afterwards. “I still can’t believe that happened. I don’t even know what to think. I saw my parents’ reaction on the screen and I just started bawling. I can’t even think right now.”
Franklin received her medal and sang as the National Anthem was played, wiping away tears at the end.
She won her gold medal with a quick turnaround of just 13 minutes, 55 seconds — by coach Todd Schmitz’s stopwatch — before the backstroke final, she made it through the semifinals of the 200 meter freestyle with the eighth-fastest time. Even with the very short rest and warm-down — 25 percent of usual — she bested her semifinal time in the backstroke by a second.
It was enough to stun Olympic men’s swimming star Michael Phelps.
“She’s a racer and she knows what to do,” Phelps said, having long ago paid Franklin the ultimate compliment to a swimmer: “She’s a stud.”
Seebohm, the top qualifier, led at the turn and was under world-record pace, but Franklin showed a remarkable finishing kick. With her arms whirling, the 6-foot-1 swimmer passed the Aussie in the final 25 meters and lunged toward the wall for the win. Franklin broke into a big smile but was clearly exhausted, her head dropping back against the wall.
“You never know until you see that scoreboard, so I was just going as fast as I could until I got my hand on the wall,” Franklin said. “It was 110 percent effort, and all the work paid off.”
Franklin has plenty of events left to compete in, as she’s early in a seven-event program that is a first for an American woman at an Olympics.
On Tuesday, Franklin competes in the 200 freestyle final, while she has three races scheduled for Wednesday — a heat and semifinal in the 100 freestyle and a heat with the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay — plus the 100 freestyle final and 200 backstroke heat and semifinals on Thursday, the 200 backstroke final and 4×100 medley relay heat on Friday and the 4×100 medley relay final on Saturday.
Because of her long list of swims, Franklin is likely to swim in just the finals of the relays as she did with the 4×100 freestyle, where she was held out of prelims and inserted to lead off in the finals.
Beth Harris of the Associated Press contributed to this report
WOMEN’S 100 METER BACKSTROKE
Final: 1. Missy Franklin, Centennial, Colo., 58.33 seconds; 2. Emily Seebohm, Australia, 58.68; 3. Aya Terakawa, Japan, 58.83; 4. Anastasia Zueva, Russia, 59.00; 5. Gemma Spofforth, Britain, 59.20; 6. Zhao Jing, China, 59.23; 7. Belinda Hocking, Australia, 59.29; 8. Fu Yuanhui, China, 1:00.50.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555