By John Lohn
MEDIA, Pennsylvania, January 17. BECAUSE the swimming community typically loves an up-and-coming teenage star, there was likely a great deal of excitement Saturday night when Missy Franklin delivered – perhaps – the best performance of her young career. The 15-year-old representing the Colorado Stars clocked 59.75 for the 100 backstroke at the Austin Grand Prix.
Franklin's name has been mentioned a great deal over the last year in terms of being a future star for the United States. She has tremendous versatility and figures to be a force in relay action for her country in future international competitions. Still, it's hard to believe many expected Franklin to uncork a sub-minute performance in the 100 back during a January meet.
By dipping under 1:00 at this point in the season, Franklin has further opened some eyes and only added to the lofty expectations placed on her shoulders. Unfortunately, though, Franklin will not get the chance to race the 100 back at this summer's World Championships in Shanghai, as Natalie Coughlin and Elizabeth Pelton, another surging standout, will handle that event for the United States. (Franklin will compete in the 200 backstroke, though, in Shanghai.)
Exiting the Austin meet, Franklin has a comfortable lead on the competition in the United States Grand Prix point standings. The winner, of course, receives a nice payday. It remains to be seen whether Franklin will take the prize if she wins it, as that scenario would entail her turning professional and sacrificing her collegiate eligibility. In a few years, it would be tremendous to see Franklin representing one of America's top college programs.
For now, let's sit back and enjoy the development of this youngster's career. While we knew she had a bright future ahead, she continues to wow and we can envision even more greatness from Franklin.
**Did he have a couple of hiccups in Austin? Sure. That was seen in his inability to qualify for the championship final of the 100 and 200 freestyles. However, it was good to see Michael Phelps in action for the first time in 2011. It was also positive to hear Phelps' comments that he's buckling down with his training with the 2012 Olympics less than two years ago.
The performances of Phelps were not – in this writer's opinion – the biggest story of the weekend. Rather, it was the sense that he's getting down to business and intent on being where he needs to be for that Olympic swan song in London. That said, I did like that 100 backstroke showing a good deal, for I didn't expect Phelps to clock a time of 54.14.
**Here's a quick question for our readers. With Eric Shanteau moving to Trojan Swim Club to train under Dave Salo, Trojan will have a ridiculous stable of breaststrokers. Shanteau will be joining the likes of Rebecca Soni, Jessica Hardy and Kosuke Kitajima. So, we pose the question: What is the best collection of athletes in a single stroke at the same club?
**As reported by Swimming World last week, Vlad Morozov, a sprint freestyler with as big an upside as anyone in the world, has decided to represent Russia for the 2012 Olympics, provided he gets the chance. While it is an immediate loss for the United States, Morozov could represent the USA down the road.
In the meantime, don't look at Morozov's decision as an affront in any way to the United States. He needed to do what was necessary to benefit his career, which was representing Russia. If Morozov competes at the 2012 Games, maybe his presence will make for an even greater 400 freestyle relay than we saw in Beijing.
John Lohn is the senior writer for Swimming World Magazine.