The golden girl who won five medals at the 2012 Olympics finished 14th in the semi-final of her signature event, the 200-meter backstroke, on Thursday – failing the qualify for Friday’s final.
Franklin’s time of 2:09.74 is nearly six seconds behind the world record she set in the event at the 2012 Games.
When asked what she learned from her incredibly difficult week in Rio, Franklin replied: “I’ll let you know in a couple weeks, maybe a couple months. Right now, it sucks,” according to the Denver Post.
Franklin added that the week was “probably the hardest thing I’ve had to go through.”
Four years ago, Franklin became the poster child of U.S. swimming. At the 2012 Games, she had ample opportunity to showcase her megawatt smile as the then 17-year-old won four gold medals and set two world records. She followed that up with a record six golds at the 2013 world championships.
Prince Harry and Missy Franklin
Hyoung Chang / Reuters / Landov
Then, in 2014, Franklin injured her back. The next year, she left UC Berkeley to turn professional, trading in her college routine to juggle the sponsor and media obligations that come with being one of U.S. sports’ most recognizable faces.
Franklin’s poor performance at the Olympic trials secured her place in just three events – two individuals and a relay – down from the seven events she qualified for in London. Even after the disappointment, she remained optimistic.
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“I wasn’t trying to be better than I was in 2012,” she said at the time, according to USA Today. “I’m trying to be the best that I am right now, here, Missy Franklin in 2016. I feel like I was able to do that.”
Franklin’s debut in Rio on Monday ended in disappointment. Her last-place finish in the 200-meter freestyle semifinal and failure to qualify for the final left her teary-eyed.
After the race, everyone seemed to have a theory as to what went wrong – except for Franklin herself.
“It’s just one of those things I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this year, what’s been going wrong but I haven’t been able to figure it out,” she said on Monday, according to The Guardian. “The hardest part is I wish I could understand and I wish I could fix it.”
The next day, Franklin stayed away from the pool and tweeted that the race had left her “heartbroken.”
So heartbroken by my results from last night. Doing everything I can to keep my head up and keep fighting with all I have
— Missy Franklin (@missyfranklin) August 9, 2016
Wednesday brought a glimmer of hope when she helped the U.S. qualify for the 800-meter freestyle relay final. The news soon came, however, that Franklin would be one of three swimmers dropped for the final. The final group, including this Games’ new swimming phenom Katie Ledecky, went on to win the gold medal.
WE DID IT!!!! Another gold for the USA 4×200 Free relay… Those girls swam their out! What a privilege to be on the morning relay.
— Missy Franklin (@missyfranklin) August 11, 2016
Still, Franklin had her best event, the 200-meter backstroke, ahead of her.
“I still have a lot to give,” she said Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times, “and I’m going to give it all.”
But Thursday came and brought an end to her Olympic run with a disappointing swim, a hug from her teammate Maya DiRado and one more exit in tears.
— Chris Jansing (@ChrisJansing) August 12, 2016
With this final result, Franklin’s words before Wednesday’s race proved oddly prophetic.
“That’s an opportunity that’s sitting there for me right now,” she said. “Whether it goes the way I want, or it doesn’t, I’m going to seize the opportunity and at the end of the day I’m going to be proud of myself for that.”