Olympian Missy Franklin nears collegiate farewell with Cal

BERKELEY, CALIF. (AP) -- Missy Franklin is downright giddy about her two seasons swimming collegiately for California, even if it meant the delay of big-money endorsement deals that will come in a matter of months as she turns pro and gears up for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Franklin will soon wrap up her sophomore season in Berkeley with the Pac-12 meet and NCAAs, then quickly turn her attention toward training for this summer's world championships in Russia and another Olympics after she captured four gold medals in her Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games while just 17.

Now a couple months shy of turning 20, Franklin insists she wouldn't change her swimming path and would choose again to spend two years at Cal — and isn't ruling out sticking around campus to train alongside a talented list of Olympians from not only the U.S. but a handful of other countries.

"It's awesome. You're literally surrounded by greatness every time you come to the pool," Franklin said Tuesday. "It's so incredible being in that kind of environment to motivate you and push you."

Franklin found her niche in Berkeley despite a high-profile existence that meant she was regularly recognized around campus.

Still, Franklin and coach Teri McKeever believe the process went as smoothly as possible.

They refer to this as Franklin's "new normal."

"She's never going to be the underdog again," McKeever said. "What makes her exceptional is the desire to be the best."

Yet Franklin will wait until her college season is done to make any big decisions about what's next, such as hiring an agent or picking where her home training base will be.

One thing is certain: "I don't care if it takes me 20 years, I will get my degree from Cal."

She is enjoying every minute with her Golden Bears teammates until it's time to take the next step. That means dressing up for hip-hop dance classes, or taking pilates and spinning as part of McKeever's training program to mix things up and avoid athletes getting bored with countless hours in the pool.

Once she turns pro, the pressure will be far more intense. She spoke of saving money for her future family.

"I'll be able to accept money, have sponsorships, endorsement deals, whereas before I wasn't able to accept any kind of prize money," she said. "This way this will be able to kind of start my professional career having gone through an Olympics already not being able to accept any money in order to stay eligible and compete in college. It's been so fun, and I would make the same decision 100 times over again. This way I'll really be able to start my job and start my career."

Franklin learned in a hurry after winning four gold medals and a bronze in London that the attention would be relentless — "life-rattling" as she describes it.

"Oh my gosh, yeah, absolutely I never would have expected to be in that position," she said of the attention and frenzy that followed her success. "I've always wanted to be an Olympic gold medalist but I never thought it would be at 17."

After next month's NCAAs, Franklin plans to sit down with McKeever to map out a plan for how to seamlessly transition into the next phase of her already-decorated swimming career.

"The main thing is to encourage her to do whatever gives her the greatest confidence," McKeever said. "Obviously, we've got an incredible situation here."