United States' Missy Franklin competes in a women's 200-meter backstroke swimming heat at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza)
Dubbed the “Female Phelps,” Missy Franklin put herself on the road to that nickname in her Olympic debut.
On the same day in London that legendary men’s swimmer Michael Phelps collected his 22nd overall medal, Franklin captured the fifth of her first trip to the world’s largest athletic stage.
“I don’t think his shoes will ever be filled. They’re so huge,” Franklin said of Phelps, who is now the most decorated Olympian in history.
“Hopefully I can make little paths next to him,” she added.
Swimming just as many events as Phelps in the Games — seven — Franklin started a legendary path of her own.
In an eight-day stretch, the 17-year-old student at Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School won four gold medals to match Amy Van Dyken at the 1996 Atlanta Games for the most by an American female swimmer.
The cherries on top were a pair of world records, an individual in the 200 meter backstroke (2 minutes, 4.06 seconds, breaking a record by Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry set in a now-banned suit) and another with Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt in the 4×100 medley relay.
Best of all for Franklin was the delight her success brought to Aurora, where life still struggles to return to normal after the July 20 theater shooting that killed 12 and injured 58.
“I hope this means a lot to them,” Franklin said of Aurora. “I have constantly been thinking about them throughout this whole time. Everything I did here is dedicated to them.”
After her swims were over, it was all gravy for Franklin. She made the rounds of national and international media, got a personal video message from teen idol Justin Bieber and watched a few Olympic sports as a spectator.
Staying in London to take part in the Closing Ceremony, Franklin and family won’t return to Colorado until Aug. 13, a day before Regis Jesuit registration. Her senior year starts Aug. 16.
D.A. Franklin said the family is determined to give her a normal senior year, which will be difficult given her star status and the college programs eager to bring her into the fold.
“I’m probably extremely naive, people say things are going to change, but right now our goal is to get her back into school,” she said.
Franklin will still have a curfew and still have to do her homework, her mother said.
“She’s got the most wonderful friends and hopefully she can go to the football games she wants to and the movies and the dances that she wants to,” D.A. added. “We hope it’s a normal year.”
Jenna Fryer and Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press contributed to this report.