LONDON - Missy Franklin is still leaning toward college over cash. For now, anyway.
A winner of four gold medals in swimming at the London Olympics, the 17-year-old from Colorado said Saturday that she's still leaning toward entering college in 2013 while acknowledging that her decision has gotten tougher after seeing what opportunities are out there for those who forgo their amateur eligibility and turn professional.
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"For right now, I still believe that college is what's going to make me the happiest girl," Franklin said at a U.S. Olympic Committee news conference to start wrapping up the London Games, which close on Sunday. "I know what my parents and my friends and my teammates and my coaches want. But we'll definitely have to sit down and talk about that."
By turning pro, Franklin would be eligible to grab endorsement deals that could be worth millions, but would cost her the chance of swimming at the collegiate level. She's been asked about her future often in London, especially after winning five medals golds in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke events, relay golds in the 4x100-meter medley and 4x200-meter freestyle, and a bronze in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
Of the 10,500 or so athletes at the London Games, only one by Saturday had claimed more medals than Franklin: Michael Phelps won six.
Not bad company.
"I think that my experience here has done two very different things for my decision," Franklin said. "I think it's made my decision a lot more difficult because I've been able to see the benefits and everything and how people get these sponsorships and what it's like for them and how much fun they're having and seeing those and kind of wanting that, wanting to be a part of it and having it be so hard to turn it down."
Franklin is a member of the class of 2013 at Regis Jesuit High in Aurora, Colo., where the school has a web page set up for all things Missy, things like pictures and stories and message-board offerings. It's probably not an overstatement to say every college swimming program in the country would love to see her with them, and Franklin already has recruiting trips planned to see California, Georgia and Southern California.
She likened the Olympic experience and being part of Team USA to what she thinks being part of College Team TBA might be.
"It's also helped me in being part of such an incredible team and knowing that this is what it's all about for me," Franklin said. "And being a part of that team and being on the closest team I've ever been on and knowing that's exactly what college is going to be like."
Decision matters will have to wait at least a few more days.
Franklin has enjoyed being a spectator in London, now that her Olympic competition schedule has been done for a few days. On Sunday night, she will march with many U.S. athletes in the closing ceremony of the London Games, saying that was particularly important to her because she had to forgo a chance to walk into the opening ceremony due to her racing schedule.
Soon enough, Franklin will gather the family for a chat to go over everything.
"I still have to have a talk with my parents and sit down and definitely go over the options," Franklin said. "But it's incredible to know that I have a support system that will be honest with me and will tell me, 'You know what, you could be doing this, you could be doing this,' and kind of give me the advantages and consequences because there are going to be both."