Fingernails painted red and blue with a few in the colours of the American flag in between wrapped around the chunky metal disc with intricate engravings as the smiling young woman on the podium held it up for photographers. The medal at 85 mm across,7 mm thick and 400 g in weight,the largest and heaviest Olympic Games prize ever seemed to shrink in her huge hands.
17-year-old Missy Franklin is a big,tough girl,with a body size and shape that researchers in the US have already declared as being built for speed. Shes Americas girl-Phelps at London,having entered seven events,the first of which the 100 m backstroke brought her gold on Monday.
Missy,who was born Melissa Jeanette Franklin,is 6 foot 1,has a wingspan of well over 6 feet,and size 13 feet the same as her 6-foot-4 fathers apparently that cut through water in the same way as a dolphins flippers. She is just out of school,not unlike Michael Phelps when he first surfaced at Athens 2004,and is already shaping up to be Americas next sweetheart in the pool.
Outside of it,though,she is still the giggly teen who is yet to graduate from having 10 different colours on 10 toes to the staid,glassy French manicures of the ladies. Post London,Missys biggest concerns will likely centre around which university to pick,and whether to follow her boyfriend to Texas or her swim-buddies to California after shes done with tackling teenage worries like finding high-heel strappy sandals to wear to the prom and minimising the slur caused by hidden braces,that is.
At the Aquatics Centre last night,Missy was the rage about to take off. US supporters who yelled instructions when she swam were thrown into delirium as she finished her race. I am so happy. I knew it was going to be difficult. I had a blast out there tonight, she told reporters amidst exclamations of Whoa! and Awesome! and Fantastic! all around her.
Her energy has blown everyone including Phelps away. On Monday,Missy swam two races the 200 metres freestyle semi,and the 100 m backstroke in less than 15 minutes,literally exiting one door,rubbing herself dry,and entering another for the next. Its definitely going to be fun tonight, she had giggled earlier,adding,I need to try to keep my energy. Itll be tough for sure.
Asked if she ever felt nervous,she had said,Yeah,definitely,but here I dont feel nervous. Ive been able to stay relaxed and comfortable.