Missy Franklin takes home six gold medals at world championships

JD Lasica/Courtesy
Missy Franklin (right) stands next to Cal women's swimmer Elizabeth Pelton (left) before the 200 IM at the 2013 Santa Clara Grand Prix.

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18-year-old swimming phenom Missy Franklin is quickly taking over as the face of Team USA after superstar Michael Phelps retired last year.

The future Cal women’s swimmer, who burst onto the international swimming scene after posting four gold-medal wins at the 2012 London Olympics, recently garnered the title of most decorated female swimmer in the history of any world championships with six gold medals.

After competing for nearly a week at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain, Franklin topped off her incredible showing at the 2013 FINA World Championships with a final win in the women’s 400-meter medley relay on Sunday.

Swimming the leadoff leg for Team USA in her last event on Sunday, Franklin gave the United States a slight lead in the backstroke while her teammates, including Cal alums Jessica Hardy and Dana Vollmer, comfortably finished off the race with a winning time of three minutes and 53.23 seconds. Team USA breezed by runner-up Australia by nearly two seconds and third-place Russia by more than three.

Earlier in the competition, Franklin and Cal alumna Natalie Coughlin led Team USA to the gold in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay — narrowly edging out the second-place Australian team by only 0.12 seconds.

After once again claiming gold in the 100 back, the teenage swimming star opted out of the 50-meter backstroke semifinals on the fourth day to focus on the 200 free — one of the events Franklin did not medal in at the 2012 Olympics.

Her decision to concentrate on the 200 free paid off, as the incoming Bear edged world-record holder Federica Pellegrini of Italy to take home her third gold.

“If I had made finals (in the 50 back), it would have also been before the (4×200-free) relay tomorrow night,” Franklin said after choosing to withdraw from the 50 back race. “So with it being right before this and right before the relay, we decided the risks outweighed the rewards for that race … I think I’m happy with the decision to scratch.”

On Thursday night, Australia held the lead in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay for a majority of the race. However, Franklin outswam Team Australia’s Alicia Coutts in the anchor leg of the relay to push the United States to another gold medal victory.

After posting one impressive performance after another, Franklin claimed a championship record time of 2:04.76 to capture the 200 back and add her fifth gold to her increasing medal haul.

All in all, Franklin surpassed the previous female record of five golds at a world meet, set by American Tracy Caulkins in 1978 and Australian Libby Trickett in 2007. The native of Centennial, Colo., also became the fifth swimmer ever to earn as many as six gold medals at a Worlds or an Olympics, joining an exclusive club known only to swimmers like Mark Spitz and Phelps.

“I had some really great races that I’m really proud of, and there’s still a bunch where I have a lot of room to improve,” Franklin said, according to the AP. “So I’m really excited for the next year and the year after that and all the years following those.”

We’ll see you soon at Cal, Missy.

Contact Janice Chua at [email protected].