My Most Memorable Moment At The 2016 USA Olympic Trials


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Commentary by John Leonard, ASCA, WSCA

Back around 1984, my friend John Collins from Badger in Larchmont, NY, came up to me on deck at Olympic Trials and said “The Drama is About to Unfold.” Hmm.

He went on to describe that at each trials there are “story lines” that emerge from the events….’will so and so make the team?’ ‘Will this athlete get to compete again in their best event?’ ‘Is this “the end” for the athletic career of a particular person?’ We’d both been going to Trials events since 1972, and agreed there is “nothing else like it.” That’s still true today.

In Omaha in 2016, there was the story of Missy Franklin, our golden girl star from London, on top of the world. The ever smiling, ever professional, sparkling personality that inspires children all over the world. A truly delightful human being…..regardless of how she is swimming.

And her last couple of years had been beset with injury and difficulty. She came to Omaha in June with a great, rebuilt, ready to swim body. Marvelous job of getting ready by her, and by her coach Todd Schmitz and her support team.

And then, in her first couple of events, she struggled. And we began to wonder, “is it possible that poor Missy MIGHT NOT be on the team to Rio?”

Missy created my most memorable moment of Trials. In the semi-finals of the 100 back, she had what can charitably be called a less than stellar swim. You would expect some unhappiness on her part. That would be fair.

As I sat ten feet away from her, Missy got out of the pool, walked behind the blocks….AND CHEERED FOR THE TOP TWO SEEDS IN THE OTHER SEMI-FINAL! She yelled loudly and repeatedly, “Let’s GO ______and _________! Let’s Go _______X 2 (since they both had the same first name).

INSTANT TEARS from me. Right in front of my eyes, the meaning of sport, the meaning of life, what we all coach for all the years… ATHLETE, (yes, in her case, all caps.) who understands that sport is about competing with your friends AT THEIR BEST! And being happy for them when they do well, and HOPING they will do well, so it will take your best performance to come out on top.

Missy, I am so grateful. THANK YOU. My faith in what our sport teaches and you demonstrate, fully on display. May all our young athletes learn from your example. I have already told my own team about it, and you, and will tell as many coaches as I can at clinics about this marvelous moment that you created.

All the Best. GO MISSY!

–John Leonard

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Canadian fan
Canadian fan
7 years ago

Beautiful article and so true. I have witnessed this in Missy at so so many meets at all levels through the years. Go Missy! We love you!

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