By Theresa Gonzalez
Melissa "Missy" Franklin was a star in the making at just five years old after her mother, who has a fear of water, encouraged Missy to pick up competitive swimming. Despite growing up in landlocked Colorado, Franklin showed the near opposite reaction to the sea, preferring to be in water than on land during most family vacations. “I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life when I haven’t had fun in the water,” she told The Washington Post. “Sometimes I wonder if the love for it will ever stop, but I don’t think it will.”
By age 13, Franklin was competing in her first U.S. Olympic Trials, electing to try for the U.S. Olympic swim team rather than for Canada, the country from which her parents emigrated and where she has dual citizenship with the U.S. She didn’t qualify for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, but London would be calling in four more years. In the meantime, she won her first international medal at the 2010 Short Course World Championship in Dubai, placing second in the 200m backstroke and earning a "Breakout Performer of the Year" award at the USA Swimming gala, Golden Goggles. At the 2011 Long Course World Championships, she nabbed five medals—three of them gold—and during that same year she broke her first world record at the FINA World Cup, gaining a FINA Swimmer of the Year nod (her first of two).