Swimming: Missy Franklin in 7th heaven, set for record number of swims at Olympics

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After all the waiting, the grueling work, the whirlwind schedule — besides everything else that comes with being a teenager — Missy Franklin is an Olympian.

The 17-year-old swimming phenom, a senior-to-be at Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School, finally clinched the spot on the United States Olympic Team that’s always been in the back of her mind, even as she tried to keep focused on the smaller things.

Franklin didn’t just squeak into the Olympics, she dominated at the U.S. Team Trials in Omaha, Neb. She rolls into London set to do something no American female swimmer has ever done in an Olympics — swim in seven events in a single games.

“My biggest dream was swimming in the Olympics in as many events as I possibly could and I think I accomplished that this week,” Franklin said at a press conference July 1 after putting the cherry on top of her week by winning her favorite event, the 200 meter backstroke.

“Accomplishing that at this age is so, so exciting and I couldn’t be happier,” added Franklin, who also swam in the Trials in 2008 at the age of 13.

As anticipated, Franklin dazzled among a group of big names in the Trials at the CenturyLink Center. She qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team individually in four different events — the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes and 100 and 200 meter freestyles — and made the pool for three relays.

Her Trials schedule was nothing short of brutal and included several big swims with short turnarounds, but Franklin — who was named female swimmer of the meet, with Michael Phelps taking it on the men’s side — handled them impressively.

From her first win in the 100 backstroke on June 27 — which finally made her a dream a reality — to a pair of seconds in the freestyle events and the winning 200 backstroke, Franklin executed much of the plan she and her Colorado Stars coach Todd Schmitz had laid out.

But there were a few slow starts and other things that Schmitz — who was officially named an Olympic assistant coach on July 2 — aims to fix before the 2011 FINA Swimmer of the Year heads across the pond.

“Phase 1 of our plan is in the books and we both know we can dial in a lot of things that weren’t necessarily hitting this week,” Schmitz said.

“I truly feel we’ll be more relaxed in London because the work is done and now we get to enjoy it,” he went on to say.

The U.S. team heads to Knoxville, Tenn., on July 7 for a three-week training camp in advance of traveling to London for the opening of the Games July 27.

Franklin had a legion of Regis Jesuit teammates and their families who made the trip to Omaha to cheer her on from the stands, but she had plenty of support from home.

The school scheduled a handful of watch parties at the Crimson & Gold Lounge — owned by 2002 graduate Andrew Caldwell — in Denver  for the community to share in Franklin’s Olympic quest.

On June 27, Hillary Thomas, a 2011 Regis Jesuit graduate and Franklin’s teammate for two years, was at the watch party to see Franklin’s rally to win the 100 backstroke, which sealed her first Olympic berth.

“I was screaming, grabbing my hair, on the verge of tears; I can’t think of a more deserving person,” Thomas said. “She was such a pleasure to swim with and she’s so positive and has the kindest heart.

“I expect big things from her in London, she’s not done here. She’s going to do awesome.”

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555