‘Missile Missy’ is tearing up Olympic pool

Life just keeps on getting bigger and better for Missy Franklin,

the teenage swimming sensation whose fame is quickly spreading

beyond the Olympic pool.

Even Bieber’s a believer.

The 17-year-old girl with the can’t-miss smile and catchy

”Missile Missy” nickname is cheerily living up to the outsized

expectations that were heaped on her going into her first

Olympics.

Franklin won a gold medal – even before Michael Phelps – in the

100-meter backstroke Monday after having opened her games with a

relay bronze.

And a certain teen idol took notice.

”Heard (at)FranklinMissy is a fan of mine,” singer Justin

Bieber tweeted Tuesday. ”Now I’m a fan of hers too! CONGRATS on

winning GOLD! (Hashtag)muchlove.”

”I just died,” Franklin tweeted in response. ”Thank

you!”

She’s still got five more events to go, giving her plenty of

chances to leave London as America’s big star with Phelps heading

into retirement. His underwhelming performances so far and Ryan

Lochte’s failure in his last two events have swung the spotlight

squarely on Franklin.

Franklin barely missed a bronze medal in the 200 freestyle on

Tuesday night. She finished fourth, just one-hundredth of a second

off the podium.

”It’s definitely hard when I was so close,” she said.

A night earlier, she qualified for the 200 free final just 14

minutes before she won the first gold medal of what promises to be

a stellar career.

”What kind of high school kid can do that?” marveled teammate

Breeja Larson.

Franklin finished the semis of the 200 free on Monday night,

then raced to the diving well for a quick warmdown. There was no

time to make it to the practice pool before her bigger race.

”That was fantastic. She did it exactly right,” said Bob

Bowman, Phelps’ coach.

No less an authority on doubling up than Phelps was amazed at

her stamina. He estimated his tightest time between races at a

major meet was about 30 minutes.

”She’s a racer and she knows what to do,” he said, having long

ago paid Franklin the ultimate compliment to a swimmer: ”She’s a

stud.”

At 6-foot-1, with big hands and size 13 feet, Franklin cuts an

imposing figure on the starting blocks. And – Bieber take note –

her size is no impediment to her dancing skills.

She shows them off in the U.S. swimming team’s recent video

spoof to ”Call Me Maybe.” Franklin boogies down the aisle of a

plane and whips her long brown hair around while lip-synching to

the Carly Rae Jepsen tune that has inspired countless viral

videos.

Franklin has cracked up her teammates since last summer, when

she won three gold medals in her first world championships in China

and set two American records in the process. They were amused by

her excited approach to swimming the mundane morning prelims and

her bubbly personality.

She’s been even more enthusiastic – if that’s possible – at the

Olympics. She loves her apartment in the athletes village and was

thrilled at the prospect of taking home the comforter on her bed.

”They’re so cute,” she gushed.

”She is always smiling, always positive,” Larson said. ”You

will never hear a negative thing out of her mouth.”

Franklin showed up for the medalists’ news conference with the

gold medal stuffed in the pocket of her gray warmup jacket. When

someone asked where it was, she quickly pulled it out and slipped

the purple ribbon it hangs from around her neck.

”Isn’t it pretty?” she said.

She figures to have many more to admire in the future.