Growing up in Colorado, Missy Franklin was introduced to swimming on her mother's insistence, owing to water safety. At the age of seven, she joined the Colorado Stars travel swim team and by 12, the American was competing against girls much older than her. By the time, Franklin graduated from high school, she possessed half the Colorado High School Athletics Association's time records for high school swim.
Realising her potential, Franklin's parents got her under the wing of professional swimming coaches and the young girl thrived. In 2011, she set the first world record of her career in the 200-metre backstroke category, bettering Japanese swimmer Shiho Sakai's previous best. But, her biggest test came in 2012 as she underwent the London Olympic trials.
Acing the trials and becoming the first female to qualify for seven Olympic events, Franklin, at the age of just 17, lived up to her reputation by winning five medals - four golds and a bronze - at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She also became the first woman to win four golds in a single Olympics in any sport.
In her next Olympics in Rio, the American swimmer, sadly, couldn't repeat her heroics (at least not in the number of medals) as she could only win a gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay. But, despite that, Franklin was being looked upon as the next Michael Phelps for her capabilities in the swimming pool. But, it wasn't meant to be.
At the age of 23, while people are generally beginning their careers, Franklin was forced to call time on hers. Destined for greatness, the young swimmer broke many hearts after she announced her retirement from the sport last December, owing to chronic shoulder pain.
For someone who won almost everything at will at the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, Franklin's dreams of becoming the best came crashing down. While the turn of events can undoubtedly demoralise anyone, it couldn't affect Franklin's resolve. Retired at such a young age, Franklin took another shot at life through 'Hinduism'.
“I have been studying religion for a year now and it is so fascinating and eye-opening. I love learning different cultures, people and their faith,” Franklin told PTI on the sidelines of the 'Laureus World Sports Awards.'
“My own religion is Christianity but two classes I have found so intriguing are Hinduism and Islam. Because those are the two religions I did not know a lot about and after reading and learning about them, I think they are beautiful,” the bubbly American said.
Apart from her heroics in swimming, Franklin also comes across as a bright student who knows quite a lot about 'Hinduism'. She is fascinated by the Ramayana and Mahabharata and has also made a conscious effort to learn the unfamiliar names in the two epics.
“I think the most beautiful aspect of Hinduism is the idea of Karma and of being good to one another, doing good deeds and how that all comes back to you, how the universe works. I find their myths and tales incredible, it is also fascinating to know about their gods, reading the Mahabharata and Ramayana has been such an amazing experience for me. The family names in Mahabharata would always confuse me but I remember learning about Ram and Sita in the Ramayana. How Sita lived her life, how loyal she stayed to Rama,” she said.
Smitten by her ever-growing love for 'Hinduism', Franklin is keen on visiting India - a country that has the largest Hindu population in the world. On the other hand, her stint at the University of Georgia also educated her about the history of Yoga. “Learning about the true roots of yoga and its process, how actual Yogis live their life of renunciation, it is so incredible. I have been doing Yoga recreationally for three years but after learning more about it through Hinduism, it has definitely become a more spiritual experience for me,” she revealed.
“In the West, I think the spiritualism of Yoga was left out and that is a huge generalisation. But it is great learning about what Yoga is all about and how it is about that connection with the divine and creating that oneness,” she added.
At a tender age, Franklin attained stardom and then saw it all go out of the window. Her injury spelt doom for what would have surely been a fantastic swimming career. But, unlike the majority of individuals her age, the American didn't let the weaknesses bring her down. Instead, she assessed her options and focussed on things that brought her happiness and peace.
Owing to her unfavourable experiences and tough choices in life so far, this youngster is a befitting example and role model for all those who seek inspiration in the darkest phases of life.