Franklin wins first gold

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LONDON -- Missy Franklin stared out on the horde of reporters, suddenly sounding very much like a high school senior-to-be. "I don't like being up here alone," she said nervously.

Then, just like that, she turned on a big smile and worked the room like a pro.

Thanks to this Colorado teenager, America's swim hopes are back on track at the Olympics.

Michael Phelps has yet to win a gold medal, and Ryan Lochte's star has dimmed just a bit. So it was Franklin providing a much-needed boost to swimming's powerhouse nation, coming back less than 14 minutes after swimming a semifinal heat to win the first gold medal of what figures to be a dazzling career.

"Indescribable," the 17-year-old Franklin said after rallying to win the 100-meter backstroke Monday. "I still can't believe that happened. I don't even know what to think. I saw my parents' reaction on the screen and I just started bawling. I can't even think right now."

After finishing up the semifinals of the 200 freestyle, she hopped out of the pool and headed to the diving well for a quick warm-down. She didn't even have time to make it to the practice pool, not when her bigger event was coming right up.

Even Phelps was amazed at Franklin's stamina, saying he had never done back-to-back races that close together at such a major meet. His quickest turnaround was about a half-hour.

"She's a racer and she knows what to do," Phelps said.

Matt Grevers kept the gold medals coming for the United States in rat-a-tat fashion, following up Franklin's win with one of his own in the men's 100 backstroke. For good measure, Nick Thoman made it a 1-2 finish.

Rebecca Soni nearly pulled out a third U.S. gold, rallying furiously on the return leg of the 100 breaststroke. But she couldn't quite catch blazing Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, a gold medalist at the tender age of 15.

Good thing for the United States that Franklin and the other Americans are coming through.

Lochte turned in a disappointing performance in the 200 freestyle, finishing fourth. France's Yannick Agnel won by a full body length against a field with gold medalists galore.

"I did my best," Lochte said.

"I guess sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I gave it 110 percent. There's probably some things I messed up on, but you live and learn. [Agnel is] a great racer. There's no doubt about it. He's quick and he showed it last night and tonight. I'm happy for him. He did good."

Franklin qualified for tonight's 200 freestyle final with the eighth-fastest time, but clearly she was saving something for the race that really mattered.

She still has five more events to go, having started her Olympics with a relay bronze and leaving plenty of time to come away from these Games as America's newest big star.

Australia's Emily Seebohm, the top qualifier, led at the turn and was under world-record pace, but Franklin showed a remarkable finishing kick. She passed the Aussie in the final 25 meters and lunged toward the wall for a winning time of 58.33 seconds.

Seebohm settled for silver in 58.68 and Japan's Aya Terakawa took bronze in 58.83.

"You never know until you see that scoreboard, so I was just going as fast as I could until I got my hand on the wall," Franklin said. "It was 110 percent effort, and all the work paid off."

olympics - sportsother


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