USA swimmer Missy Franklin (left) celebrates with Elizabeth Beisel (right) after the women's 200m backstroke final. Franklin won the gold medal setting a new world record. Beisel won the bronze. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
By Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY
LONDON - On the eve of Michael Phelps' retirement from the sport, the world was ready to anoint Missy Franklin as the next big thing in American swimming - and that was before she broke a world record and won yet another gold medal.
The 17-year-old did both of those things Friday night in the women's 200-meter backstroke.
"Everyone has been saying Missy is the future of U.S. swimming," women's coach Teri McKeever said earlier this week. "Well, the future is now."
With one event to go - the women's medley relay on Saturday - Franklin has three gold medals and a bronze. She has received congratulatory tweets from the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Her megawatt smile has gained her thousands, if not millions, of new fans.
In winning the 200 back Friday, she led wire to wire and shattered the world record by .75 seconds with a time of 2:04.06.
"Every young athlete dreams of getting a world record," Franklin said. "For that to actually happen, it's unbelievable. I remember when I broke my first one, my short-course 200-meter backstroke, Michael was there with me, and he was like, 'Your first one is your best.' I was like, 'Oh, no. Don't tell me that!'
"I think this one definitely gave it a run for its money."
Bronze medalist and teammate Elizabeth Beisel had nothing but praise for Franklin after the race. She said Franklin was 'unbeatable' in backstroke events. Still, Beisel was asked what it would take to beat her.
"Apparently, a world record," Beisel said, laughing. "That's hard to do. That's something I've never done."
Beisel tried her best, and she was expected to be Franklin's toughest competition in the teen's best and favorite event. Beisel, the top qualifier for the final, started slowly - she was in sixth place at the 50-meter mark - before inching her way up to third by the end of the race. Russia's Anastasia Zueva won silver.
Franklin's domination has prompted the obvious comparisons to Phelps himself. At age 19 in Athens, Phelps won six gold medals and two bronze. Franklin has spoken often of what an inspiration he has been to her.
He's going to be her guide as she starts to navigate the world of swimming superstardom.
"There's so much I still have to learn from Michael," Franklin said. "He goes through so much every single day. To see how he handles everything with such calmness, I think that's what really opened my eyes a little bit - how he was so calm before every race. You never ever see him in a panic."