5-time Olympic gold medalist, Missy Franklin: “I truly look at God as my best friend”

Team USA swimming sensation, Missy Franklin joined us as we reflected on a summer experience in Rio and how God has been teaching her through the highs and the lows!

So Missy what are you up to right now, what’s next in the calendar for you?

So that’s the great thing, I don’t really have a what’s next and I love it. This has been the first time in about twenty-one years and it’s perfect, it’s exactly what I needed. This summer was obviously really, really hard for me and I am still working through a lot of heartbreak and disappointment but I am back in the water training. It’s not an issue with me not loving the sport, it’s really just about me giving myself the time to process everything and make sure that I am really ready to go back for competition.

So I am just training right now and I love that part of it, I took a really good break, like six weeks off which is the longest of my life by a distance. It is awesome getting back into shape and knowing that when it is time to go and race again I will do just that.

Let’s talk about Rio just gone, how do you sum up the experience on reflection?

I always enjoy it, regardless of how I am doing or what happens, there are so many memories that are made and it’s always such a privilege to represent my country and see my teammates do so well. So I still have wonderful, wonderful memories from this summer that I am going to cherish forever but with that being said it was definitely not the summer that I was hoping it was going to be. I think especially as an Olympic athlete, when you work four years of your life for something and then have it go so oppositely to the way you wanted it to, it’s crushing.

It really takes a lot out of you to go through something like that, I would be totally lying if I said that it didn’t make me question God and what he was doing in my life. I feel that it was such an incredible test for me to go through and I would have never been able to rely on God as much as I did and trust him as much as I did had I not been put through all of that.

I feel like some people have a relationship with God where they are maybe scared to be honest and to tell him their true feelings, whereas with me I truly look at God as my best friend. So when I am angry with him or frustrated I am going to tell him, that’s how I would with any other friend. I want to have a relationship with him where I constantly have this open line of communication because that’s how I hope to hear him more and more.

So in what ways did you feel God educated you this summer?

Well throughout the whole year I was not swimming how I wanted to and so I kept saying well God this is in your hands, I trust you that everything is going to work out for the best. I got to the point where I really needed him this summer and it felt like we failed and I felt so upset, that I couldn’t hear his voice and so I prayed about it every single night. I think it is really important to go through times like that because you don’t have growth in a relationship if it’s great all of the time.

It’s actually an amazing story, after going through a time where I was struggling to hear from him I was on the plane ride home and was sitting next to a total stranger who had no idea who I was and we just started talking and he didn’t know what I had been through at Rio. It turned out he was an Oncology doctor in a children’s ward and being very open about my faith, I asked him as someone working with life and death situations everyday do you have a faith?

He started talking to me about his relationship with God and how it helps him through every day, so he then asked me about my relationship with him and so I told him about how much I’d been struggling. He then looked at me and said congratulations on going through so much suffering because that means that God is working so prevalently in you right now.

It just totally blew me away and I of course had not looked at it like that, I was just feeling so down and so low and now to have a total stranger congratulate me made it feel like I’d had a conversation with Jesus that day.

Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?

I didn’t grow up with God in my life so I had never been to church before I went to high school. It was never discouraged in my house but it just wasn’t something that ever came up, so mainly because of swimming I ended up going to an all-girls private Catholic high school. I absolutely loved it and it was there that I found my own relationship with God, it was so unique and so special because it was something that I chose to pursue on my own. Once you have that feeling you know it’s going to be impossible to live without him. So I didn’t have a say yes moment, it was more about me just learning more and more about him over the school years. I am so grateful for Catholicism for introducing me to Christ but for personal reasons I didn’t feel like God was calling me to be confirmed in the Catholic church, I felt very confident in my faith and chose to remain non-denominational.

 

Being a five-time Olympic Gold medalist at 21 is incredible, how do you keep your feet on the ground?

So much of it is God but also through my parents, I want to make sure I give them massive credit as well. I am grateful for them and they have been so supportive with my relationship with Christ which has meant the world to me. I have the best parents in the entire world and they keep me grounded and keep me feeling like Missy, like a normal twenty-one-year-old. They are the ones who help me not to get caught up in everything which can be so hard, with so much media and all of these different events. You just have to stay true to who you are and what you believe in and you know what, I think this summer really helped with my humility a lot. Looking at it from that angle I have learnt so much.

Now in swimming there are more events and more opportunities to win Golds compared with other events. Does this lessen the satisfaction of winning for you?

It never lessens the satisfaction, it is so exciting to watch your team mates do so well and it is so inspirational, however it can make you feel a little bit inferior and you just need to stand back. People have asked me off the back of the summer, questions like did I medal? And they are amazed that I would even think about being disappointed with that, it is kind of things like that when you are surrounded by people winning multiple Golds, multiple medals and you have to just appreciate what a big deal it is to medal at all.

 

How does God feature in your pre-race routine, anything special that you do?

Oh I pray my little heart out, every time! That is just for me and it helps me to keep things in perspective, just knowing that he is there and at the end of the day winning and losing really means nothing when there are souls on the line. So to know that my soul is with the greatest keeper and that he is going to love me regardless, that just takes a lot of pressure off and enables me to enjoy it.

Were you left inspired by Missy?

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