By Alan Baldwin
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The U.S. trials proved a trial indeed for Missy Franklin but swimming’s golden girl of London 2012 believes she can be back to her best at the Rio Olympics.
Franklin set records on her way to four golds and a bronze medal at her first Games, but the 21-year-old qualified in just two individual events — the 200 meters freestyle and 200 backstroke — at the trials in Omaha.
That did not include the 100 meter backstroke, one of her Olympic titles.
Despite that, she is still smiling.
“I’ve felt for the past several months that I am in the best shape I have ever been in,” Franklin told a news conference on Wednesday.
“I think trials was just a very different experience for me and I think I wasn’t really prepared for the emotional aspect of it…coming in this year I think I felt the pressure a lot more than I ever have before.
“I’ve normally been able to handle that really well and that was something that I really struggled with at trials,” she added.
With that ordeal over, and many swimmers have commented over the years how the process is every bit as pressured as an Olympic final, Franklin said she had a fresh surge of confidence.
“I still have that power, I still have those guts that I really believe I’ve had my whole career,” she said.
“With a lot of that pressure gone, and with a better mental mindset coming in here … I won’t only have all that endurance that I built up but also the heart and guts to go on top of that. I think that’s a pretty killer combination.”
Katie Ledecky won the 200 freestyle at the trials and looks set to be the talk of the women’s team this time around with a possible individual golden triple as well as relays.
Franklin was gushing in her praise for the 19-year-old, who won 800m freestyle gold in London and has since made herself unbeatable over the distance.
“It’s been such an honor to watch her,” she said. “I think she’s capable of unbelievable things, doing things that no-one in this world has ever seen before.
“To be able to tell my kids one day or tell stories that ‘hey, I was there when Katie Ledecky did this’. That is so cool for me … hopefully I can push her the way she’s pushed me similar to how we talk about Australia pushing the U.S.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)