2012 Olympic Champion Missy Franklin Announces Retirement

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin, 23, announced Wednesday she is retiring from competitive swimming in a first person letter she wrote to ESPN. Franklin explained why she decided to retire, saying it was “perhaps the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write.”

“The first 18 years of my career were as picture perfect as it can get. The equation couldn’t have made more sense: you work hard, you have a positive attitude, you show up every day and give your best, and you get faster. That’s how it worked for me. I worked harder, I trained harder and I swam faster, year after year after year. Following the 2012 Olympics, I decided to remain an amateur and swim in college, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Swimming at the University of California, Berkeley was one of the greatest honors and privileges I’ve had as an athlete and a person. The teams I was able to be a part of in 2014 and 2015 taught me more than I can begin to say. People would sometimes laugh when I said I wanted to swim in college because I knew I would meet my future bridesmaids on my team and that they would become my family for life. Well, I did meet them. One maid of honor and three bridesmaids, to be exact.”

Franklin went on to talk about her decision to leave Cal in 2015 and go home to train with club coach Todd Schmitz in Colorado. She talked about the struggles she endured in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics, and the shoulder problems she dealt with that year.

“At the Mesa Pro Series event in April 2016, I had to be pulled from the meet due to intense shoulder pain from an injury suffered in warm-up. I had never experienced that kind of pain before and I began to completely unravel. The Olympic Games were just four months away and many expected it to be the greatest moment of my athletic career. After the success I saw at my first Olympics in London, the expectations for my second Olympic appearance only felt greater.

I trained through it all — both the physical and emotional pain — and did everything I possibly could have to keep my head held high. Looking back, surviving through those eight days in Rio was the greatest accomplishment of my career. I was able to stay true to who I was as much in failure and disappointment as I had been in winning and being the best in the world.

After I made it through the Olympics, I knew we had to finally address the pain that I had been using every ounce of energy to ignore. In January and February of 2017, I had surgery on my left and right shoulders. It should have been a quick recovery, but when I was back in the pool in April, I knew based on my pain level that I needed more time to heal. I took the summer off and ended up reconnecting with the man I will be marrying next year. I can’t even begin to explain how God’s timing works, but all I know is that it is beautiful, perfect and magical.”

Franklin then talked about going back to Cal in 2017 to train with Cal men’s coach Dave Durden, and having to still deal with the nagging shoulder problems.

She then decided to make another change in her training by moving across the country to train at the University of Georgia. But as she was getting back in shape with the Bulldogs in Athens, her shoulder pain was worse than it had ever been. Her medical diagnosis was severe chronic tendonitis of both the rotator cuff and the bicep tendon. After the failure of her last round of shots, she only had one other option: another surgery.

“When I heard the word “surgery,” I immediately broke down because I already knew my answer: no. I’ve been in too much pain, for too long, to go through another surgery with a longer recovery time and no guarantee it would even help. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed. I talked to the most trusted people in my life. When my now fiancé looked at me and said the following, my answer finally became clear. “I will support you fully, no matter what you choose. But what matters to me the most, more than anything, is that you can hold our children in your arms one day without being in excruciating pain.”

I began to realize that my greatest dream in life, more so than Olympic gold, has always been becoming a mom. Swimming had been such a huge part of my life for as long as I could remember, but it was not my entire life. I still have dreams, goals, aspirations and intentions I plan on living out every day of my life. I will never be able to express in words how grateful I am for swimming — for the places it has taken me, the lessons it has taught me and, most importantly, the people it has brought into my life.”

Speedo USA President John Graham gave Swimming World a statement regarding Franklin’s retirement.

“Missy Franklin has left an indelible mark on the sport of swimming that goes far beyond her competitive accomplishments,” Graham said. “Since taking the global stage as a teenager, she has inspired us all with her passion for the water, indomitable spirit and contagious smile. We are proud to have been a part of Missy’s journey from the start, and will undoubtedly continue to support her endeavors as she takes on this new chapter.”

Franklin swam in two Olympic Games for the United States and won six medals. She won gold medals in the 200 back, 100 back, 4×200 free relay and the 4×100 medley relay at the 2012 Olympics in London, as well as a bronze in the 4×100 free relay. Franklin returned four years later in Rio, winning a gold in the 4×200 free relay as a prelim swimmer.

Franklin competed at three World Championships for the United States in 2011, 2013 and 2015. She won eleven World titles, with four of those coming in individual events. She won the 200 back in 2011 and 2013, and won the 100 back and 200 free in 2013.

Franklin also swam at Cal for her first two years of college. She won five individual NCAA titles in her short career, winning the 200 free in 2014 and 2015, and the 200 back and 200 IM in 2015. She won three relay NCAA titles in her career, winning the 800 free relay twice in 2014 and 2015, and the 200 free relay once in 2015. She was the 2015 CSCAA Swimmer of the Year and led the Cal Golden Bears to the national title that year.

Franklin’s 200 free from the 2015 NCAA’s still stands as the fastest time in history with her 1:39.10.

Franklin also still holds the World and American Record in the 200 LCM backstroke at 2:04.06 from the 2012 Olympics.

Franklin also announced earlier in 2018 her engagement to former Texas swimmer Hayes Johnson.

Franklin was also the second 2012 Olympic Champion to announce their retirement this week, following 100 breast champion Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa.

Franklin was Swimming World’s World and American Swimmer of the Year in 2012, and was also announced as the 2012 High School Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World. She graced the cover three times in her career, in December 2012, October 2011 and October 2009.

To read Missy’s letter in its entirety, click here.

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  1. Scott R Moore

    She will always be a legend. I wish her and her future husband all the best!

  2. Tracy Meece

    Mikayla Meece Kaitlyn Meece

  3. Alan Haake

    I hope she stays with the sport on deck or in a booth. Lots of experience to share. Good luck Missy!! Thanks for being an inspiration to MANY young swimmers!!

  4. Suzi Minahan

    She’s an incredible human, and an exceptional role model

  5. Pat Kennedy

    Missy, congratulations on your engagement and you will always be an inspiration for swimmers of all ages and abilities. I wish you a lifetime of love and laughter with your future husband and children.

  6. Tracey Richards Chiulli

    What a great role model! You’ll be missed for many reasons including that smile. Hope you stay connected to the sport! Best of luck in your future journeys. ❤️??‍♀️

  7. Maurizio Otto De Togni

    What a great and inspiring athlete and role model human being! She got me and my family and above all our daughter into “competitive” swimming … I suggest you all to watch “touch the wall” documentary! Inspiring and touching! And read her book “relentless spirit” (the unconventional raising of a chanlion) I wish you all the best with your next chapter of your life! You deserve nothing but the best!

  8. Emily Mettler-Stephens

    After seeing her recent engagement, this doesn’t surprise me. She is an amazing swimmer and I’m taking bets that we will see her on the deck. Much love to you and your future husband.

  9. avatar
    Steven V. Selthoffer

    What a fantastic career and an even better person. Your life and faith are an inspiration. “Let your light so shine before men, that. they may see your good works, and. glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matt 5:16
    Your light has shined bright and will continue too. You made us proud! Steven V. Selthoffer

  10. Ann M Cooper

    Missy, you have been (and still are), a great inspiration to all swimmers, coaches, parents of all countries. Have always followed your story and will continue to do so. All the best to you and your family in life and love.?

  11. Charlene Tallen

    Who will ever forget her beautiful smile and her GRACE?! You will always be a superstar to us Missy ?

  12. Marilyn Capizzo

    Congratulations enjoy the rest of your life

  13. Alexander B Gallant

    Missy you had some great swims and definitely are a inspiration to many. Congratulations and thank you.

  14. Kris Koach

    Conrats on your retirement. Was wondering if you’d be interesting in coming to Louisville Ky area to teach at our tiny but mighty swim school. Hit me up when you get board.

  15. Susan L. Lansbury

    Alice O’Leary McClenahan??‍♀️?‍♀️?‍♀️?

  16. Ives Miranda Mayal

    Pena muito nova se aposentando ainda tinha muito a dar na natação esta grande atleta, lamento !

  17. Rich Davis

    Such a shame her career was ruined by shoulder problems. An extremely nice and unpretentious young lady.

  18. Arif Shaikh

    Great swimmer miss the world