Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin settled her college-or-career decision this month by signing a national letter of intent to swim for the University of California, Berkley, but she's now grappling with whether or not to swim for her high school team as a senior.
"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 recently told the Associated Press. "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."
High school competition likely won't be much of a match for the four-time Olympic gold medalist, who was named the Female Athlete of the Year this month by USA Swimming. Franklin captivated audiences with her performances at the 2012 London Olympics, setting world records in the 4x100-meter medley relay and 200-meter backstroke.
With the high school season already having started at Franklin's Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., she hopes to come to a decision quickly about whether to compete as a senior.
"I think I'm letting it get too stressful, and that's not the point," she said to the AP. "The point of high school to me is to have fun and enjoy it."
Even before her performance at the 2012 Olympics, Franklin had passed up somewhere in the range of $500,000 in endorsements to preserve her status as an amateur swimmer, according to ESPN sports-business reporter Darren Rovell. She banked medal-related bonuses in London totaling at least $200,000 while maintaining her amateur status, but couldn't accept bonuses for setting world records or endorsement money.
A marketing specialist told Forbes this summer that Franklin could likely rake in between $1 million and $2 million per year in endorsements over the next five years if she decided to turn professional. Another told ABC News that she'd earn "in the millions" from advertising and endorsement deals, too.
She's already made the million-dollar decision by signing with the University of California, planning to swim two years with the Golden Bears before turning professional well in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Now, it's just a matter of deciding whether to lay waste to the field of Colorado high school swimmers who she'd compete against this year.
While she'd almost certainly win every time, which may be construed as poor sportsmanship by some, wouldn't most high school athletes revel at the chance to compete against an Olympian? A four-time gold medalist, even?
Even if she lapped me three times in that race, at least I'd have a story to tell my grandkids.
Photo: Olympian Missy Franklin signs autographs after competing at the USA Grand Prix swimming event this month in Minneapolis. (Andy Clayton King/AP)
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