By Dan D’Addona.
From the minute Missy Franklin stepped on to the international stage, there was something different about her — something special.
The young teen from Colorado showed the swimming world an upbeat, engaging personality unlike it has ever seen.
The sport and the country fell in love with Franklin because of that openness, that genuineness and that infectious smile.
Franklin took that openness and genuineness to a new level in her recent book “Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion” co-written with her parents, D.A. and Dick Franklin.
“We have all been so thrilled with the response we have gotten,” Missy Franklin said. “Immediately, we were all anxious to see what our close family, friends and loved ones thought about it. The highest compliment we got was that is sounded exactly like us and it was so honest and authentic, and that is really what we wanted to do with it. Once we heard that feedback from the people that knew us best, I think we all felt really comfortable that was how it was going to be portrayed.”
In the book, published by Dutton, Franklin dives in to her rise in the sport and unbelievable high of winning four gold medals at the London Olympics in 2012. On the flip side, for the first time, she gives her complete and emotional take on her roller coaster 2016 with her disappointments at the Olympic trials and at the Olympics in Rio.
“The past year was obviously a huge struggle for me in so many ways, but I definitely thought there had to be parts of that included, despite how hard it was having to sit down and write chapters immediately after getting back,” Missy said. “My emotions were so raw. But I think there is something special in capturing those moments just as they were when they were that raw. I think it is important for people to see my vulnerability and see when I am in pain and see that I am being honest about how horrible it was and how heartbreaking it was, because we all experience something like that in our lives at one point in or another. It might not be in sports, it might be in your marriage or your job. But at the end of the day, we all face heartbreaking disappointments. For me, I wanted to share how I was able to get through that and knew I would be better because of it. And I hope it might help someone who has gone through that before, is going through it or will go through it themselves one day.”
The response has cemented Franklin’s legacy in the sport, no matter where she goes from here. Her social media following is bigger (27 percent on Twitter) after her rough trip to Rio. People are seeing her as an inspiring human being, not just a champion.
“The feedback from the readers about her including Rio has been incredible, the life lessons she learned and what readers have learned. A lot of people have said they were proud of Missy after London but even prouder after Rio and that is what they are going to be sharing with their kids,” D.A. Franklin said.
The book could have finished before Rio.
“Rio was her choice,” Dick Franklin said. “I give her a lot of credit for putting it down on paper and pushing it out to the world. That would have been the easy way out.
That one letter just hit Missy the right way. A little girl that was having a tough time and was able to turn it around after watching Missy handle defeat. Rowdy Gaines came up to me in Rio and said, ‘Dick, I have never been prouder of your little girl.’”
That is the way so many swim fans feel about Franklin.
“Relentless Spirit” enlightens readers in a lot of other ways, too. Franklin freely talks about her faith journey and how it opened up when she attended Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado.
That wasn’t surprising to those that know Franklin, but one topic was pretty shocking. The Franklins openly discussed the fact that D.A. was unable to physically have children and Missy was born through surrogacy.
“For the surrogacy, it is not that we didn’t want to tell people, but we didn’t want it to take over the book,” Missy said. “It is such a special part of our lives, but it doesn’t define us. I am so beyond grateful to this women who gave me life and it is definitely a part of who I am, but by no means does it make me who I am. I think that was the biggest concern for us. We don’t mean to make it more casual that it is, but we also don’t want to make it more of a big deal than it is. That is just the way I was born and how it happened.”
“Missy was the one who wanted it to be authentic and represent who we really were. When we discussed the surrogacy situation,” D.A. said. “That was a hard one. There would have been no need to discuss it if it was a parenting book. To Missy’s credit, she said it should be included because it is so special how our family developed.
We have always been a pretty private family, so it was difficult to decide what all to share. But we needed to share the important things that showed our special Franklin family.”
It was eye opening for many readers, including those closest to the Franklins.
“If you think you learned some things about us, imagine our family members, who were like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t realize that.’ I have brothers saying that,” Dick Franklin said. “We didn’t want to write a book about swimming and winning. We wanted to write a book about raising Missy. To do that, we had to be honest about our own background and how all of that chemistry came together. I think we achieved our goal. Once we started getting into it, we said it had to be 100 percent transparent and 100 percent truthful, and that is exactly what it is.”
The book is available in most book stores and on sites such as Amazon.com. The hardcover price is $27.
There are plenty of experiences Missy shares in this book, giving fans a new look into her life and what it has been like when she was at the top and after disappointment. She said she is overwhelmed by the response so far and is grateful for the chance to share a closer look at herself.
“It was incredible because I have been given such a special opportunity with a platform where hopefully my voice is going to be heard by more people — and I take that responsibility so seriously,” she said. “I know it may look like I have it all together sometimes like I am always happy and bubbly and positive, but in reality I feel the same things that everyone does every day. To have this chance to write down life-changing moments and behind-the-scenes moments for me has been huge.”