Missy Franklin leaves for Barcelona on Tuesday, but on Aug. 23 she leaves Colorado for good. She departs for college at California, leaving behind the state she helped make famous for swimming and the man who helped make her great.
On Aug. 4, after her leg in the 400 medley relay at the World Championships, Franklin and her coach, Todd Schmitz, will have the longest embrace of any visitors to Spain this summer. Schmitz, her coach with the Colorado Stars, will hand her off to Cal coach Teri McKeever, who merely gets the world's top swimmer of 2012 and the fastest female 200-meter backstroker who ever lived.
And what of the man who helped turn her into a four-time Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder? How will he react when she steps out of the pool under his tutelage for the last time?
"He's a crier," Franklin said.
Schmitz started coaching Franklin, 18, when she was 7 years old. Granted, there will be tears but they'll dry in a hurry.
"At no point will I think we'll never not talk," Schmitz said. "The best part about it is even if I'm not there on a daily basis or a workout basis or I'm her coach, that doesn't mean she's not going to text me or come back at Thanksgiving or Christmas. That's the best thing about it. I don't expect her to suddenly delete my number and not talk to me."
Franklin blossomed under the Metro State grad, who was scoffed at by more established coaches who couldn't understand how an average Division II swimmer from North Dakota could build an Olympic champion in the swimming backwaters of Colorado.
But Franklin broke her first national age-group record at 12, won her first international medal at 15, broke her first world record at age 16 and was the star of the London Olympics at age 17.
The biggest gift Schmitz, 34, gave to Franklin is an unabashed love of swimming. In a Swimming World article entitled "The 10-and-Under Wonder," a study showed that of the girls ranked in the top 10 nationally at 10 and under, only 11 percent were ranked when they reached the 17-18 age group.
Franklin didn't get burned out. She burned hotter.
"I wouldn't have a career without him," Franklin said. "Every coach has something about him that makes him special. Todd and I have a relationship that's special in itself. We've always been more than athlete and coach. He could always tell when I'm upset or had a bad day and I can always tell when he's had a bad day.
"That's why we're able to work so well together. It's so much more than swimming."
Since Franklin's international emergence and Schmitz's inclusion on the Olympic coaching staff, he has received offers to leave the Stars. However, the Stars have won more state titles than any club in Colorado history, as well as two national club titles. Membership totals 165. He turns away more than 200 kids every fall.
Getting their own pool is still a distant dream. Franklin must check her schedule every morning to make sure she doesn't crash someone's aqua aerobics class. But there's something to be said for training at a mile high.
"I don't want to move just to move and get in the college ranks," Schmitz said. "I've got a lot going on now that's pretty good. I'll listen to people but the people I've listened to don't say the right things.
"At the end of the day I want control. I want to hire my own staff."
But first, he has another World Championships to coach.
"On Aug. 4 in our last day in our last race we want to, quote-unquote, leave it all in the pool," Schmitz said. "Get out and be proud of what we've done."
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