While many Team USA fans are looking forward to riveting performances from veteran swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, compatriot and teenager Missy Franklin is expected to steal the spotlight in London.
The Colorado native has qualified for seven events in London including four individual events and three relays. No woman has competed in seven events at a single Olympics, so Franklin will begin the London Games as a record breaker. She has the potential to be the star of the Games as no female swimmer has taken home more than six medals at the Games.
While the 17-year-old is not expected to dominate in every event, she is a favorite to win the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke, and 4x100-meter medley relay. Not bad for a high-school student.
I think Missy has the potential of being on multiple Olympic Teams and help the U.S. not just for the next month but hopefully the next generation of great swimmers, said Teri McKeever, head coach of the U.S women's team.
A dominant force in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events, Franklin has been on Team USA's radar for years already. At the young age of 13, Franklin competed in her first Olympic team trials, though she failed to qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing. In 2010, she won the first international medals of her career at the World Championships in Shanghai.
By 2011, Franklin established herself as a star in the sport. She set her first world record in the 200-meter backstroke, won five medals, including three golds in Shanghai, and was named the 2011 FINA Swimmer of the Year.
Indeed, Franklin isn't just a young star on the rise, but a legitimate medal contender at the 2012 London Olympics.
Though the 6'1 American with size 13 feet has already been called the next big thing in swimming, she remains a typical teenager. The rising senior at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Co., juggles a full course load which includes multiple AP classes, participates in community service events, is a fan of Justin Bieber and Usher, and recently attended her junior prom.
She's the nicest person in the world, one of the sweetest people you've ever seen, John Koslosky, the Regis Jesuit girls' athletic director told the Guardian. But when that horn goes off and she jumps in the water, she will reach up and rip your heart out.
Franklin demonstrates a high level of focus and maturity as she places her academic responsibilities on the top of her list. She has told many sources that she plans on maintaining her amateur status in order to swim on a college team, so she will likely refuse any endorsements, sponsorships or pro earnings.
She ... has an incredible maturity for someone her age, and I think that's because she has great parents and a really great coach that has helped navigate the waters of the Olympic craziness, said Natalie Coughlin, a veteran Olympic swimmer and current teammate.
Franklin also attributes much of her success in the pool and classroom to her parents whom she considers her best friends. She handles the pressure of performing at a world class level by knowing her family and friends are always there to support her.
It brings a whole new comfort level to it and just makes me relax so much more, Franklin said. No matter what happens, I know I get to go home to them.
Franklin will compete in her first Olympic event on Saturday, July 28 when she takes part in the 4x100-meter Freestyle Relay.