Last week, in the comments section of Swimswam's coverage of Missy Franklin's first high school meet, the haters came out. They suggested that the five time Olympic gold medalist should not be swimming high school. One poster, commenting under the name "Concerned Mom" said Missy was creatring an "unfair" advantage for the "vastly overrated" Regis Jesuit High school team. The comments were so hyperbolic that they were easily dismissed as the rantings of some online troll. Rational people everywhere could breath a sigh of relief. That is, until yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "I Have to Swim Against Her?".
The subtitle proceeds "Missy Franklin is racing for her high school- which is fun unless you have to face her". The article goes on to air the sour grapes of a rival high school swim coach and swimmers. I'll reproduce a few quotes here and you can see if they go along with "Concerned Mom" above:
"She won so many gold medals. I don't know what you're there to prove." -Tiffany Bae, a mother of a swimmer on the rival team (Cherry Creek High School)
"I don't particularly like that she's swimming at state" -Alex Bae, Tiffany Bae's daughter
"If they didn't have her, they had no chance of winning" -Cherry Creek coach Eric Craven
"I don't know why Michael Phelps insists on competing, it's really unfair for the rest of us" -Every other swimmer at the Olympics ever.
I only made up one of those quotes! Now, to be fair there is some chance that the Bae's and coach Craven lacked the media savvy to understand how quotes could be selected out of context. The same goes for former Cherry Creek Swimmer and National teamer Bonnie Brandon, who added the somewhat less inflammatory "It's really frustrating when Missy kind of shines above everything" which is the kind of comment I imagine some lesser known pop starlet making about Taylor Swift.
I have some advice for all of the above, not that they asked for it. Take a few deep breaths and find a way to see how awesome this is. The closest I ever came to this experience in my swimming career was in 1999, when in my high school sectional meet I got to race a handful of strokes a lane over from Erik Vendt (50 breaststroke on a 200 medley relay). Now, Vendt was not a star on the order of Missy Franklin, and he was still a year away from making his first Olympics. But it was clear he was pretty special at this point. Let me tell you something about that race: it was awesome. I got beat soundly and it was AWESOME!
Count me among the people who are a little bit uncomfortable with those who extrapolate all sorts of other greatness about Missy from her swimming ability. I've never met her, but she definitely seems nice. The one thing I am sure of is that she is a phenomenal swimmer, and her amazing ability doesn't take anything away from anyone else she competes against. So please, let's all stop being so "concerned" about her swimming for her High School team.