I am an unabashed fan of the Olympics, and as a former competitive swimmer, I am here for the swimming competitions. I am also here for Missy Franklin and her quotes about overcoming disappointment, because I love me a good comeback story. But wait — don't call it a comeback. Honestly this is just a good story about life, and how it contains multitudes of success and failure. That's a fact you have to accept or you'll face being absolutely miserable forever, and honestly, who wants that? (No one. The answer is no one.)
One of the standout competitors from 2012's London Olympics, Franklin was crowned with that ever-heavy title of "America's Sweetheart" after winning five medals (four of them gold) and breaking two world records at the age of 17. She very quickly developed a reputation for being bubbly and optimistic and silly, all before beginning her senior year of high school.
Following graduation, Franklin headed to UC Berkeley, where she competed at the college level for two years and was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. In 2013, she set a record at the World Aquatics Championship after winning six gold medals. She was the first woman in history to do so.
And then 2014 rolled around. Suffering through a serious back injury, Franklin has spent the past several years struggling to live up to her own reputation. At the Olympic Trials earlier this year in Omaha, she qualified for only two events: The 200 freestyle, and the 200 backstroke, her signature event in which she still holds the world record.
But Franklin, who has been through countless interviews in which she's asked over and over again to expound on her failures, has managed to keep her head above water (#sorrynotsorry). And just because most of us are not historically great Olympians, we can still learn from that. Because failure, and how we handle it, really is a uniting force among humans.
1. “I always had this idea in my head of the person that I wanted to be when I was going through challenges and, to be blatantly honest, when I was 17 I had never been through any (real) challenges.”
At the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Missy spoke to USA Today how her public persona has changed since the last Olympics. “My career had been up and up and up," she explained. "I had a wonderful family, a wonderful life. I had never really struggled before, in my own way but nothing compared to what I had been through the last couple of years." Ugh, girl, growing up is sometimes The Worst.
2. "That’s hard, to give yourself so entirely to something, get to a big meet and not have it turn out like you expected."
"But that’s what swimming is — and that’s what life is. You figure out how to get through that," Missy told USA Swimming. And my heart.
3. "Being there, and still having to swim every event and knowing that I was going to be in pain — and on top of that knowing that I wasn't going to be close to the times I wanted — was heart-wrenching."
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Missy dove deep into her mental state at the 2014 Pan-Pacific Championships, when she competed through terrible back pain. "But," she continued, "I gained so much mental strength from pushing through and showing myself what I was made of. Until that, everything had been going up and up and up in my career."
4. “It’s really hard to go through something like that, to get over the feeling and that fear of what it felt like to compete while you were injured.”
Reading this Denver Post profile, I got really emotional, because recovering from the fear and the memory of pain and still pushing forward is SO HARD, and Missy speaks on it SO ELOQUENTLY.
5. “I think it’s just a matter of trying too hard, thinking a little too much."
After a disappointing performance at the 2016 Trials in backstroke, the New York Times asked Missy how she felt about the rest of her races. “Now it’s just about trusting myself and letting it happen," she said. The mental strength of Missy, man. It's astounding.
6. “I feel like I have this new wisdom that I've gained throughout the successes and the challenges of the past four years. Having experienced that, it makes you feel more mature in a way."
"Walking around, I feel like I can almost hold my head a little bit higher knowing I've been through all of this," Franklin told USA Today. Yas! YAS! Turning life experiences into maturity and hope and pride!
7. "Believe in the work you do."
Ugh, Missy going off in this USA Swimming profile. Just look at it: "Training is 'never not going to pay off' — it does at some point, and it just isn’t always when you expect it, or when you want it to."
8. "I never go into a meet with a certain medal count in mind — that’s setting my goals off of other people."
Just spittin' some grown-ass wisdom for TIME Kids. This is still a thing I struggle with, but absolutely not regarding gold medals, because HA, what would I win them for? Napping?
9. "I'm confident in who I am as a woman and I try to encourage other young women to do the same and be confident in what they are as well."
10. "I would rather be remembered for the person I am outside of the pool. World records will be broken. Times will be broken. I want to be known as someone who handles herself with respect, sportsmanship, and with love."
Another one from TIME Kids. Missy, you are so wise. Please tell me how to live my whole life. Thank you and good night.