Missy’s new challenge: being a ‘normal’ student

How do you lead the life of a “normal” 18-year old first-year student when you’re one of the most renowned swimmers in the world? Missy Franklin plans to give it the college try, as she and Teri McKeever, Cal women’s swimming and diving head coach, stressed at a press conference Wednesday at Memorial Stadium.

“This is Missy’s new normal – being a college student,” McKeever said, urging the press corps to allow the swimming phenomenon a chance to settle into her new life, and her coaches “time and space to build a team.”

Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin  (Cathy Cockrell/NewsCenter photos)

Fresh off her latest athletic triumph — this time at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, where she captured a record six gold medals — Franklin moved into her UC Berkeley residential hall (where she ‘s rooming with a teammate) on Sunday and starts classes Thursday.

In the meantime, the 6’1” swimmer has had a chance to explore the campus (“There’s nowhere else like it,” said the effervescent freshman) and the local community (“very different” from Centennial, Colo., where she’s from, she said — “totally unique, totally crazy”).

Sometimes, her Welcome Week forays about town have gone virtually unnoticed, Franklin said. “We’ll see how class goes,” she added hopefully.

Franklin earned four gold medals and a bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London, where McKeever served as head coach for the U.S. women’s team. The two also worked together at the World Championships.

Both swimmer and coach referred to Franklin’s strong desire to be part of a college team, for now, rather than a solo act.

“I think this community, department, team are going to give her the greatest gift of her life,” McKeever said.

Asked about the role that Cal’s Olympic legacy played in her decision to attend Berkeley, Franklin said it “wasn’t their success that drew me,” but “how the team was with each other.”

No one else can “do ‘team’ like Coach Teri,” Franklin said.

She plans to swim with the Cal women’s team for two years, then train for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, while completing her undergraduate degree.