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Women in Swimming History: Missy Franklin as Role Model and Inspiration

by ZwemZa on March 29th, 2019

Missy Franklin (USA Swimming)

As March is Women’s History Month, it’s not hard to appreciate all of the wonderful women who have helped build our world into what it is today.

There were tons of swimmers that I looked up to and enjoying following as I grew up in the swimming community. People like Caroline Bruce, Natalie Coughlin, and Dana Vollmer really inspired my love for swimming in the early years of my career.

For over 15 years, swimming was my life. Everything I did revolved around swimming—chlorine was practically engraved in my skin. Although I wasn’t quite of caliber as my fellow athletes above, I was still lucky enough to swim Division I at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

It’s safe to say that without looking up the wonderful athletes, my love for swimming would have ceased much earlier in my career. In particular, growing up alongside swimmers like Missy Franklin really inspired me to continue to grow and blossom in several different parts of the sport. If they could achieve such honors, I could too, right?

From a young age, Missy Franklin became a role model of mine. She was an incredibly talented athlete but so humble and kind about her achievements. Missy competed for the sheer love of the sport, and although I wasn’t as decorated of an athlete as she was, I tried to carry the same type of gratitude with me.

The 2012 Olympics was a standout time for Missy. At just 17 years old, Missy took home four gold and one bronze medal, along with two American, and Olympic and two World Records. Though she is a fierce competitor in the water, Missy swam with such grace; every stroke she took looked effortless.

It was truly inspiring getting to watch someone as young as Missy become one of the top swimmers in the world – it seemed as though she was incapable of having a bad race.

Outside of the water, she was a role model of all traits. She was just as much a regular human being and she was a superstar, and she knew a good balance between the two. Missy led her life with a friendly smile. She knew of her value, but was continuously striving to become the best version of herself.

The 2016 Olympics was a major turning point in Missy’s career. One of the greatest athletes in the world fell short of finals on both of her individual events. The world simultaneously began openly speculating her life and why she wasn’t performing as well as she once had. Even harder, cameras spun around her face, capturing every emotion she was feeling.

I hit my peak in the water when I was about 15 years old, and my best times didn’t budge the rest of my career. So, coming from someone who didn’t end their career in the ways they wanted to, I, along with many others, understood where Missy was coming from.

No matter how bad we want that type of victory or success, sometimes it just isn’t in our wheelhouse. Likewise, it’s hard to ignore the fact that no one is perfect, and even the most elite fall short sometimes. You can’t always be the best in the world all of the time, can you?

In 2016, Missy told her story with the release of her book, Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion. Also opening up about her mental health as well, Missy drove home the fact that self-confidence and positive thinking is fundamental when it comes to bringing out the successes we want to see.

It takes true strength to be truly vulnerable in the ways that Missy did. Through the entirety of her swimming journey, she chose the high road. Instead of allowing her fall to get the best of her, she found joy in the little things, and she confided in her teammates for support. Most importantly, Missy found her purpose in the reality of living life outside of the water.

Today, she is committed to helping others learn to do the same. Speaking to people all around the world, Missy continues to inspire, motivate and connect with everyone she meets, one smile at a time.

Isabelle Robuck | Guest Blogger

 

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