American swimmer Missy Franklin won the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award on Wednesday. - AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: The usually confident and professional American swimmer Missy Franklin was reduced to giggles when describing her first meeting with her hero, the legendary Mark Spitz.
The 18-year-old, who won the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award at Istana Budaya on Wednesday night, was taken by surprise when she bumped into him in the hotel elevator on Tuesday.
“It’s absolutely incredible! I didn’t recognise him without the moustache! When he introduced himself, I was like ‘Oh my god! Do you know how cool you are?’ And I think I totally became a fan girl at that moment,” said Franklin in a fit of giggles on Wednesday.
Franklin admitted that she is not ready to commit herself to swimming eight events just yet.
She rose to prominence at 17 after sweeping four gold medals at the London Olympics in 2012 in the 100m and 200m backstroke, 4x200m freestyle and 4x100 medley.
Last year, she amassed six golds in six events at the World Championships in Barcelona, winning the 100m and 200m backstroke, 200m freestyle, 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle, and 4x100 medley.
“I’ve done six (events), but I don’t know if I’ll do eight. Swimming is so unpredictable. All I want to do is keep trying. I want to keep up with my backstroke and the freestyle so I can swim in the relays,” said Franklin.
Despite having Michael Phelps as one of her idols, she is not sure she wants to emulate his eight gold medal achievement at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
“Michael has done such amazing things for Team USA. There is no other Michael Phelps, male or female. He’s so unique and what he did can never be done the same way. I prefer to say that I’m Missy Franklin and I’d like to create my own legacy.”
Right now, Franklin is perfectly comfortable going at her own pace, opting to do two years of collegiate swimming at the University of California, Berkley, before turning pro next year.
“Now, I’m focused on the US Nationals in the summer and hope to qualify for the Pan Pacific and then the World Championships. I can’t believe Sochi is over, I have to kick it up a gear because Rio’s (Olympics) next,” said Franklin, who is studying psychology.