Missy Franklin could come away with a mint of medals
Wearing his brand-new red, white and blue sneakers, a crisp Team USA jersey and a boyish grin, Todd Schmitz, 33, could have been mistaken for one of the 2012 U.S. Olympians introduced to wild applause after swimming's high-pressure Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb.
Next to Michael Phelps, Franklin represents Team USA's biggest medal hope at the London Games. She and Phelps have the same goal: seven medals. By the closing ceremonies, she could be Team USA's most famous and celebrated female athlete.
Despite those heavy expectations, and a sobering history of stumbles by other promising teens at their first Olympics, no one at USA Swimming seems concerned about the state of mind of either Franklin or Schmitz, her longtime coach at the Colorado Stars club team.
"I'm comfortable if they're comfortable and I trust both of their judgments -- and Todd in working with her,'' said Teri McKeever, the U.S. women's coach. "I'm just continually more and more impressed with her. She's 17 years old, but she's a professional.''
Franklin is actually a true amateur who has taken an unusual course: She has turned down prize money and sponsorship opportunities in the six digits to keep her collegiate eligibility intact. She's preparing to return for her senior year at Regis Jesuit High.
After winning the 100 backstroke at the U.S. trials, Franklin said she was "speechless and over the moon . . . I am the luckiest girl in the world. I learned that if I just keep a positive mental attitude, that I can go out there and do whatever I hope I can do.''
After she clinched her spot in a fourth individual event by running away with the 200 backstroke, U.S. team officials informed Schmitz that he had been added as an assistant on the U.S. coaching staff.
At last year's world championships in Shanghai, Franklin emerged as an international force by winning three golds, two silvers and one bronze.
The day after winning her final event at the trials, Franklin showed up at the pool for an 8 a.m. workout, Schmitz said. She wanted to talk, he added, about what she could do to get faster for the London Games.
"Instead of having the mind-set of being satisfied, she wanted to know, 'How can I make this machine better?' '' Schmitz said. "I told her . . . 'You have more speed. I know you can go faster.' ''