NEW YORK — In a year when she raced at the Olympics, Missy Franklin’s greatest stress might come from deciding whether to compete for her high school team.
Fresh off her four gold medals in London, the 17-year-old is weighing if she should join the squad at Regis Jesuit outside Denver for her senior season. She’s well aware of criticism asserting that her presence would unfairly deny other, non-Olympian swimmers of high school championships.
“If I had anyone who swims high school come up to me and tell me they don’t want me to swim, I would absolutely not swim,” Franklin said Monday. “But everyone who I’ve talked to has been so supportive of it. So it’s so hard when I have so many people that are really wanting me to do it and so supportive, and I have other people who are saying it’s not fair. ‘Why would you do this to other girls?’ And I feel so bad thinking that they would think that.
“It’s hard, because I feel like no matter what I do, it’s going to be opposed in some way or form.”
Franklin said all this with that effervescent smile that captivated fans as she won five medals, finding the humor and the perspective of the situation.
“It’s hard,” she said, “but it’s life.”
Franklin was in Manhattan for the Golden Goggles, USA Swimming’s annual awards banquet. She recently decided to swim at California in college and to compete there for two years before turning pro after the 2016 Rio Olympics. But first, she has to sort out her high school swimming plans.
The season has already started in Colorado, so out of fairness to her coach and teammates, she wants to make the latest of her big decisions quickly.
“I’ve had to make a lot of them, and to be honest I’m kind of tired of them, and I don’t want to make them anymore,” Franklin said. “But I think this is my last big decision for a while.”
Her parents worry that if she opts out of the chance to swim for her high school, she’ll later regret it.
“The hardest part for me is I really have no gut feeling on this,” Franklin said. “In my past big decisions, I’ve had a gut feeling. Now it’s hard because I’m really relying on other people’s opinions, and there’s so many different opinions that I have no idea.”
Dana Vollmer, the 100-meter butterfly gold medalist in London, swam for her high school in Texas after competing at the 2004 Olympics and remembers hearing the criticism too. But she knew representing Granbury High offered an experience that even the sport’s biggest stage couldn’t.
“It just felt like high school was my hometown. It was where I grew up,” she said. “It was my friends that I’d had since kindergarten.”
Franklin hopes to recapture that spirit as she makes this decision.
“I think I’m letting it get too stressful, and that’s not the point,” she said. “The point of high school to me is to have fun and enjoy it.”