While her mind is set on Olympic gold, swimmer Missy Franklin’s heart is with the victims of the movie theater shooting rampage in the Colorado community that has been a large part of her life.
The 17-year-old phenom is from Centennial, Colo., but she goes to school and trains only 10 miles away in Aurora, the site of the shooting last Friday by alleged gunman James Holmes that killed 12 people and wounded 58 others.
On Friday, she tweeted, “Praying for everyone hurt and affected by the theater shooting in Aurora. I’m in total disbelief and shock. Things happen so quickly.’’
Franklin told Reuters she had never been to the movie theater where the shooting occurred during the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,’’ but she routinely drives by it on the way to practice. “I was very, very shaken up,’’ she told Reuters. “It was terrifying for me because I had no idea who was there. I was getting information from all friends and family. The fact that so many people were hurt and so many people were affected was heartbreaking.’’
In anticipation of her first Olympics, where her breakout stardom has been hotly anticipated, Franklin spoke with Matt Lauer on TODAY about that pressure as well as the sacrifices she has made to fulfill her dream.
“Everyone has something different to analyze or something different to say,’’ she said. “It's hard when you do hear it kind of from all these different angles. But that's when I just have my family and friends tell me, you know, ‘Go out there and do your best.’’’
Franklin is the first American woman to qualify for seven events. While the teen swimming star does her best to maintain a sense of normalcy, her constant training has made that a challenge.
Her biggest sacrifice, she said, is time. “Swimming, there's so much effort that you have to put into it, and you want to have the energy for it because I love it," she told Lauer. "There are days when I can’t stay out late, (and) I can’t go out with my friends.”
Nicknamed "The Missile,'' Franklin has also resisted the siren call of turning professional, refusing sponsorship offers in order to retain her eligibility to compete at the collegiate level.
“Swimming in college has always been a dream of mine, especially growing up,’’ she said. “Seeing my older teammates go off to college and coming back, and spring break and winter and just saying how much they love it. It's just amazing, and I want to be a part of it.”
For now, Franklin is focused on enjoying the ride.
“I've been able to meet so many incredible people and do so many things that I never thought I'd be able to do,’’ she said. “Right now I'm doing what I love and that's what I want people to know. That's honestly the reason why I'm doing it.”
She is also doing it for a community close to her heart. “The only thing I can do is go to the Olympics and hopefully make Colorado proud and find a little bit of light there now,’’ she told Reuters.