Missy Franklin is Going for Gold

The Olympics start this week, and if you're a Coloradan, there's one person you'll be watching more closely than all the others: swimming wunderkind Missy Franklin, whose showing in London could portend historic future achievements.
July 25 2012, 2:20 PM

The Olympics' opening ceremony is in two days, a moment that marks the kickoff of two weeks of competition for hundreds of athletes from around the world. And while the storylines are compelling—Michael Phelps' last Games; sprinter Usain Bolt's budding rivalry with a fellow Jamaican runner—none is more interesting for Colorado than the potential success of swimmer Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old, soon-to-be high school senior from Centennial (I profiled her in 5280 earlier this summer).

Franklin is scheduled to compete in seven events in London—four of them individual—and she could win medals in all of them. If she does, there's reason to imagine that Franklin would be on her way to becoming the most decorated female Olympic athlete of all-time.

It's an interesting thought experiment: If Franklin competes in four Games—she'd be 29 years old in 2024—there's a reasonable chance that she could eclipse lots of Olympic records (though it'll be tough to top Michael Phelps' eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Games). When you think about it, she's so dominant now that it's perhaps possible that she could earn at least 10 gold medals during her Olympic career, a number that would top former Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, who has the most golds among female Olympians.

Will we be watching the greatest female athlete ever in London? It's far too early to put that kind of weight on Franklin's broad shoulders. For now, we'll have to be satisfied watching her in London (or on a nationally televised morning show). It'll be after the Olympics that we can start talking about her potential dominance on a historic level.

Follow Robert Sanchez on Twitter at @milehighrobert.