INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — Missy Franklin will likely be one of America's top medal hopes at the London Olympics, but first the swimming superstar needs to find a dance dress suitable for her 1.85-meter frame.
"I'm actually in the hunt for a prom dress right now, which is really difficult," Franklin said as she prepared for this week's Indianapolis Grand Prix, the fifth stop on USA Swimming's Olympic-year series.
"It's not going well at all," she added with a laugh. "But we actually have a later flight on Sunday, so I think I'm going to try to hit up the mall here and look for one."
Franklin holds the world short course and US long course records for the 200-meter backstroke.
At last year's World Championships in Shanghai, she won five medals -- three gold, one silver and a bronze.
FINA, the sport's world governing body, named her their Female Swimmer for 2011.
"I was so shocked and surprised," she said. "It was such an incredible honor."
Combined with her statuesque height and her achievements, Franklin's poise makes it easy to forget that she won't be 17 until May.
To her friends at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, where Franklin is a third-year student, the world's top woman swimmer is just one of the girls.
"My friends and I have been together for years and years and years," she said. "They don't see me as 'the big swimmer.' They just see me as 'Missy the goofball.'
Some of Missy's friends planned to be in Indianapolis for this week's meeting.
"They're so supportive of everything I'm doing," Franklin said. "But whenever I'm with them, I'm able to be myself and goof off."
But Franklin is hardly a goof-off.
Swimming enables her to see the world, and she takes advantage of each opportunity.
"I'm 16 years old, and I think I've been to nine or 10 countries," she said. "I make it my main goal to make sure I learn something wherever I go."
A trip to the Olympics this summer would be a first for Franklin, but she's been to Britain before.
"Driving on the opposite side of the road kind of threw me off," she said.
Although the accolades have been piling up, Franklin is wary of her competition -- not just at the Summer Games, but also at the US trials in Omaha, Nebraska, June 25-July 2.
"I think every country will be strong this year, especially the United States," she said.
"The trials will be incredible. Anything can happen. You have to watch out for the underdogs (as well as) people who are expected to win."
Franklin is friendly with some of the swimmers she expects to compete against at the Olympics.
"We just had a teenager from Canada, Brooklynn Snodgrass, who came out and trained with us. Absolutely loved her! We had so much fun. We're great friends.
"Some of the other Canadians and some of the Australians, I stay in touch with them," she added. "It's awesome when I go to big meets and see them."
Beyond the Olympics, Franklin expects to enter university in the fall of 2013. She's undecided on a school, but she wants to study marine biology.
"I just got back from Florida, and we were able to swim with dolphins," she said. "It was amazing. I had a lot of time to talk with the people who work there, and I got a really good idea of what I'm looking for."
Franklin says she doesn't worry much about college, a career or even the looming Olympics.
"I'm not too concerned about the future," she said. "I'm a teenage girl. I'm just having fun with everything I'm doing."
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