Olympics, Summer

Missy Franklin competes in high school: Fair or foul?

1/16/13 in Olympics, Summer   |   Trokspot   |   65 respect

missyA couple of days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on Olympic swimming sensation, Missy Franklin.  Franklin has turned down an estimated $3 million dollars in endorsements to maintain her amateur status which allows her to compete at the high school level as well as remain eligible for a collegiate swimming career.  She is apparently trying to maintain some semblance of a normal high school life - at least as normal as you can hope after winning 5 Olympic medals (4 gold and 1 bronze).

But what was interesting in the article were the reactions of some of her opponents, particularly from athletes who swim for Cherry Creek - a school that has won 26 state titles in the past 38 years.  One of the rival schools of Franklin's was quoted extensively, with one individual stating:

""It's really frustrating when Missy kind of shines above everything," said Bonnie Brandon, who before graduating last spring was Colorado's greatest-ever female high-school swimmer next to Franklin. "She's No. 1 in the world, and No. 1 in the state, and then I'm No. 2 in the state.…It's just hard being in close proximity," said Brandon, now a University of Arizona swimming star."

I agree that it's probably frustrating to swim against someone as talented as Franklin.  But I strongly disagree with the statement above.  High school athletics have a wide range of talent, from kids who are possibly trying out a sport for the first time to the Missy Franklin's or LeBron James' of the world. 

Part of what should be considered is the intent of the coaches and individuals involved.  Is she being put out there to humiliate and make a mockery of her opponents.  No, it doesn't seem that way.  She only swims a few meets a year, and when she does, she does her best.  What else can you ask for from a kid who just happens to be "too talented"... sit there and twiddle your thumbs while watching your friends swim because you're just too good? 

Let's also take a look at the opposing team and individual involved.  The team is a dynasty.  Twenty-six titles in thirty-eight years and you're going to complain about fairness? Really?!  I'm sure you've had some talented swimmers over the years - oh I don't know...Amy Van Dyken (one of the most accomplished female Olympic swimmers).  I doubt that you apologized for letting her swim.  I'm also willing to bet that she's not the only one who has been (or will be) an Olympic-caliber swimmer from that school. 

This particular individual who gave this quote also doesn't have reason to complain.  You were the most successful high school female swimmer ever in Colorado history before Missy.  Now you're going to complain about being number two? Really?!  I'm sorry that I can't quite muster up much sympathy for you for only being number two all-time.  I'm sure there were plenty of people who were thinking that it probably wasn't fair that they had to swim against you.  Moreover, if Franklin is the best high school swimmer in the state of Colorado, shouldn't her name be in the high school record books?

I think that Missy should have taken the endorsement money - I tend to view a lot of these young athletes as exploited in some ways (they often have very short careers and the window for them to make any money from their talents is extremely limited). 

However, she decided not to take the money and is legally eligible and competing for her high school team.  I cannot fault her for that at all - whether it's because she wants to spend time with her friends on the team or it's because she wants her own name in the record books.  Both are fine with me.    And I certainly don't have a problem with the big bad bullies of high school swimming - Cherry Creek - getting just the slightest taste of their own medicine by finishing second or third in the state instead of first. 
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