Before They Were Champions: A Look Back at Early Swimming Success of Missy Franklin and Chad Le Clos

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PHOENIX, Arizona, August 6. LONG before they became international sensations for their amazing performances at the London Aquatics Centre last week, Missy Franklin and Chad Le Clos were quietly taking aim on Olympic gold with fast swims at much younger ages at the junior level.

Swimming World has tracked these two swimmers for the past three years, and looking back on some of their early accomplishments, it almost comes as no surprise that they now have Olympic gold medals draped around their necks.

Franklin first made a name for herself at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, when she was just 13 years old. She didn't make much noise there, but her presence meant great things for her future. She didn't wait long to make due on that potential. At the 2009 junior nationals, Franklin won several events, including a 2:09.16 in the 200 back that put her in the top eight in American history.

On Feb. 4, 2011, Franklin made her Morning Swim Show debut, and her personality then was just as bubbly and infectious as it is today.

“Even if I final in an event, that will mean the world to me,” Franklin said in the interview of her hopes for the 2011 world championships. She would go on to win five medals in Shanghai, three of them gold.

“What a bright future she has. Will be exciting to watch!” wrote one viewer on our comments section the day of the interview.

Le Clos' trajectory to Olympic stardom was slightly similar. He had been known at the junior level in his native South Africa for a few years, but 2010 was his breakthrough year. At the 2010 Youth Olympics, he won five medals, including a gold in the 200 IM. Two months later at the Commonwealth Games, he won five medals, including a gold in the 200 butterfly. And in late December, he gave his nation an early Christmas present with a win in the 200 fly at the short course world championships that bore a close resemblance to his Olympic victory.

In the middle of a four-way battle for the win with about five meters remaining, Le Clos was able to time his finish perfectly and beat more established swimmers in the field, including the world record holder, who placed second.

The spring before taking on the world, Le Clos made his debut on The Morning Swim Show on April 22, 2010, to talk about the expectations he was putting on himself in the coming months.

“I'm definitely not going to go (to Commonwealth Games) just to make finals. I'm hoping to medal,” he said.

We invite you to peruse our archives on to read more about how these two athletes and others used hard work and perseverance to earn Olympic gold.