CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
The women, meanwhile, figure to be led by their two biggest stars from the last Olympics, Franklin and Schmitt.
Franklin just turned 18 and is finishing up her senior year of high school in Colorado. After her remarkable performance in London, where she swam in seven events and claimed five medals, there’s no doubt that she’s most likely to fill much of the void left by Phelps.
The vivacious teenager is eager to take a leadership role on the national team.
“Being able to go the Olympics and (2007) world championships has given me some awesome insight,” she said. “I’m always going to be there for my teammates if they have a question or need some help or just need someone to tell them, ‘It’s OK. Don’t worry. Don’t be intimidated. You’re going to do great.’ That’s what I’m here for. That’s my job now.”
Not that she expects to match Phelps’ performance in the pool. After all, he won more gold medals (18) and total medals (22) than anyone in Olympic history.
It will be tough for any swimmer, even one with Franklin’s immense talent, to take such a dominant role on the American team. The key now is to develop more depth in the program so the overall production doesn’t slide.
“It’s impossible to replace Michael Phelps. No one will ever replace him,” Franklin said. “But it’s incredible to have so many great young swimmers coming up.”
Franklin plans to remain an amateur for two more years while swimming at the University of California, then turn professional a year before the Rio Olympics. Schmitt also passed on the chance to cash in on her performance in London, where she won three golds and a silver, returning for her senior year at the University of Georgia.