In her Olympic debut at the 2012 Summer Olympics at age 17, Franklin won a total of five medals, four of which were gold. She swept the women's backstroke events, winning gold in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke. Franklin's successes have earned her Swimming World's World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year award in 2012 as well as the FINA Swimmer of the Year Award in 2011 and 2012. In total, she has won twenty-seven medals in international competition: sixteen gold, six silver, and five bronze, spanning the Olympics, the World Championships, the short course World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships. Franklin's eleven gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships was a record in women's swimming before Katie Ledecky broke it in 2017.
Franklin holds dual American and Canadian citizenship, and chose to compete for the U.S. national swim team.
Franklin was born in Pasadena, California, the only child of Dick and D. A. Franklin. When she was a baby, her mother was very worried about water safety, so Franklin started swimming purely because her parents wanted her to get comfortable with the water. She grew up in Centennial, Colorado and began taking swim classes there at the age of five, at the urging of her mother. She attended Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado and graduated in 2013.
Both of Franklin's parents are Canadian and Franklin holds American and Canadian dual citizenship. Her father, Dick, was born in St. Catharines, Ontario. A former All-Canadian football player for Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he played briefly for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League as an offensive lineman. After an injury ended his football career, he returned to Halifax to pursue an MBA degree at Dalhousie University, where he met his future wife, a medical student. While working for 7-Up in Ontario, Dick was transferred to the United States. Ultimately the family settled in Denver, Colorado, where Dick had a senior position with Coors Brewing Company. Franklin's mother suggested that her daughter consider competing for Canada to ease the pressure of qualifying for the U.S. National Team due to the competitive depth of American swimmers. Franklin, however, chose to represent the United States, citing her patriotism for her homeland.
Franklin is 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) tall and has women's size 13 feet: "We call them built-in flippers," says her father. She has been coached by Todd Schmitz from the Colorado Stars club team since she was 5 years old.
During her rise to stardom surrounding the 2012 Olympics, Franklin continued to refuse prize money and endorsements so that she could maintain her amateur status to compete in college. In 2012, she accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where she began swimming for coach Teri McKeever's California Golden Bears women's swimming team during the 2013–14 academic year. At Cal, Franklin is a four-time individual NCAA champion: winning the 200-yard freestyle in 2014 and 2015, and the 200-yard backstroke and individual medley in 2015. After the 2015 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, in which Franklin won three individual NCAA titles, Franklin turned professional. She intends to continue working towards a degree in psychology and a minor in education.
At the age of seven, Franklin joined the Colorado Stars travel swim team. It was not obvious to Franklin's parents that Missy possessed such a natural talent, until other members parents' brought it to her parents attention. At the age of twelve, Franklin began competing against girls that were much older than she was. At the age of 13, Franklin competed at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, but did not qualify to swim in any events at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Her best result was 37th place in the 100-meter freestyle.
At the 2010 National Championships, Franklin competed in six individual events, and qualified to swim at the 2010 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships by finishing second in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke. At the 2010 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, Franklin finished fourth in the 100-meter backstroke and did not make the A final for the 50- and 200-meter backstroke. Franklin earned the first international medals of her career at the 2010 FINA Short Course World Championships in Dubai. In the 200-meter backstroke, Franklin finished in second place behind French swimmer Alexianne Castel. Franklin also earned a silver medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay for her contribution in the heats. For her performance in 2010, she won the Breakout Performer of the Year Award at the seventh annual Golden Goggle Awards.
In her first long course world championship meet at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, Franklin won a total of five medals, three gold, one silver, and one bronze. In her first event, the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, Franklin won a silver medal with Natalie Coughlin, Jessica Hardy and Dana Vollmer in a time of 3:34.47. Swimming the second leg, Franklin had a split of 52.99, the second-best among all participants. Franklin won her first individual medal, a bronze, in the 50-meter backstroke, finishing behind Russian Anastasia Zuyeva and Japanese Aya Terakawa. Shortly after the 50-meter backstroke final, Franklin competed in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay with Dagny Knutson, Katie Hoff and Allison Schmitt and won gold ahead of Australia and China in a time of 7:46.14. Franklin's lead-off time of 1:55.06 was faster than the winning time of Italian Federica Pellegrini in the individual 200-meter freestyle final (1:55.58). After setting the national record in the semi-finals of the 200-meter backstroke (2:05.90), Franklin dominated the field in the final with a time of 2:05.10, breaking her own national record and winning gold. This was Franklin's first individual world title, and her time in the final was the third-fastest effort of all time. Shortly after the 200-meter backstroke final, Franklin competed in the 4×100-meter medley relay with Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, and Dana Vollmer and won gold with a time of 3:52.36, over three seconds ahead of second-place finisher China. Swimming the freestyle leg, Franklin had a split of 52.79, the fastest in the field. The final time of 3:52.36 for the medley relay was the second-fastest effort of all time, just behind the Chinese-owned world record of 3:52.19. For her performance at these championships, she won the Female Athlete of the Year, Female Race of the Year (200-meter backstroke), and the Relay Performance of the Year (4×100-meter medley relay) Award at the eighth annual Golden Goggle Awards. She was also named the best female swimmer for 2011 by FINA Aquatics World Magazine.
Three days after the 2011 World Aquatics Championships ended in Shanghai on July 30, Franklin traveled to Palo Alto, California to compete at the 2011 National Championships, which began on August 2. At these championships, Franklin competed in four individual events, and the 4×100er career in the 100-meter backstroke and freestyle. She also placed fourth in the 200-meter individual medley and twelfth in the 50-meter freestyle.
Towards the end of 2011 in October, at the 2011 FINA Swimming World Cup, Franklin set the first world record of her career in the 200-meter backstroke, bettering the previous record of 2:00.13 held by Shiho Sakai with a time of 2:00.03. In breaking the record, Franklin became the first female to break an individual world record since the high-tech bodysuits were banned in January 2010. Franklin's second world record came at the 2011 Duel in the Pool in December. In the 4×100-meter medley relay, Franklin combined with Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, and Dana Vollmer to break the previous American-owned world record in a time of 3:45.56, bettering the previous record of 3:47.97. Swimming the freestyle leg, Franklin had a split of 51.32.
During the preparation for the London Summer Olympic trials, Franklin could be drug tested from six in the morning until eleven at night, and had to report where she was at all times. She would be given one hour a day and within that hour she had to be at that exact location, in case they would come to drug test her. Franklin started training for the London Olympics with Kara Lynn Joyce on the Colorado stars swim team. Within the London Olympic trials, Franklin became the first female to qualify for seven Olympic events.
At the 2012 United States Olympic Trials, Franklin qualified to swim in four individual events at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In her first event, the 100-meter backstroke, Franklin won the final with a time of 58.85, breaking Natalie Coughlin's American record of 58.94 seconds. In her second event, the 200-meter freestyle, Franklin placed second behind Allison Schmitt by over two seconds with a time of 1:56.79. In her third individual event, Franklin finished second in the 100-meter freestyle behind Jessica Hardy with a time of 54.15. Her second-place finish came less than half an hour after swimming in the 200-meter backstroke semi-finals, where she finished first overall with a time of 2:07.91. In the 200-meter backstroke final, her fourth individual event, Franklin finished first with a time of 2:06.12.
On the first day of the swimming competition at the 2012 Olympics in London, Franklin won a bronze medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay with Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal, and Allison Schmitt, with the U.S. team finishing behind Australia and the Netherlands. Swimming the lead-off leg, Franklin had a personal best of 53.52 seconds and the team finished with a total time of 3:34.24, an American record. Franklin's first leg in the relay was also the fastest lead-off of the field. In her first individual event on the third day of the swimming competition, the 100-meter backstroke, Franklin won the gold medal with a time of 58.33 seconds, beating her own national record. Her win in the backstroke came less than fifteen minutes after completing the 200-meter freestyle semi-finals, where she qualified for the final. The following day, Franklin competed in the 200-meter freestyle and placed fourth in the final with a time of 1:55.82, one one-hundredth of a second behind third-place finisher Bronte Barratt. A day after the 200-meter freestyle, Franklin won her third medal of the meet, a gold, in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay with Dana Vollmer, Shannon Vreeland and Allison Schmitt. Swimming the lead-off leg, Franklin posted a time of 1:55.96 and the U.S. team finished with a time of 7:42.92, a new American record. A day after completing the relay, Franklin competed in her third individual event, 100-meter freestyle. In the final, Franklin placed fifth with a time of 53.64 seconds. Franklin was able to bounce back from that performance, and in her fourth and last individual event held the following day, the 200-meter backstroke, Franklin won her second individual gold of the Olympics with a world record time of 2:04.06, bettering Kirsty Coventry's record of 2:04.81. In winning the 200-meter backstroke, Franklin also became the first American female to win the event at the Olympics since Melissa Belote did in 1972, forty years earlier. In her final event, the 4×100-meter medley relay, Franklin won gold with Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt. Swimming the backstroke leg, Franklin recorded a time of 58.50 seconds, and the U.S. team went on to set the world record with a time of 3:52.05, besting the Chinese-owned record of 3:52.19 set in 2009.
At the end of the year, Franklin was named the World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine. She was also named the best female swimmer for 2012 by FINA Aquatics World Magazine.
At the 2013 US National Championships, Franklin qualified to swim in five individual events at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships. At the National Championships, she finished first in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle and backstroke, and second in the 50-meter backstroke.
At the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, Franklin swam seven total events – four individual and three relays, though she later withdrew from the 50-meter backstroke after the heats. At the meet, Franklin won six gold medals, setting a new record for the most golds won by a female swimmer at a single edition of the World Championships. Despite being the first woman in history to win six gold medals at a single World Championships, she lost out the award of Swimmer of the Meet to teammate Katie Ledecky for her two world record-breaking performances and four gold medals.
On the first day of the pool competition and her first event the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, Franklin lead-off the relay with a time of 53.51. She was over a second behind Australia's lead-off Cate Campbell, but teammates Natalie Coughlin and Shannon Vreeland made up some ground and anchor Megan Romano overtook the Australian team in the last 20 meters to give the Americans the gold medal. The final time of 3:32.31 was an American record, breaking the previous record of 3:34.24. In her first individual event held on the third day of the pool competition, the 100-meter backstroke, Franklin won gold in a time of 58.42, six-tenths of a second ahead of Emily Seebohm of Australia. On the fourth day, Franklin decided to scratch the 50-meter backstroke since it was right before the 200-meter freestyle. In the 200-meter freestyle, Franklin won her third gold in a personal best time of 1:54.81, touching 0.33 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Federica Pellegrini. On the fifth day, Franklin won gold in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay along with teammates Katie Ledecky, Shannon Vreeland, and Karlee Bispo. Swimming the anchor leg and diving in with a deficit of over a second, Franklin was able to track down Australian Alicia Coutts, recording a split of 1:54.27 and the team finishing with a time of 7:45.14. On the sixth day, Franklin competed in the 100-meter freestyle and placed fourth in the final with a time of 53.47, just missing the medal podium. A day after her 100-meter freestyle swim, Franklin successfully defended her title in the 200-meter backstroke, winning with a time of 2:04.76 and setting a new championship record. In her last event, the 4×100-meter medley relay, Franklin combined with Jessica Hardy, Dana Vollmer, and Megan Romano to win gold in a time of 3:53.23. Swimming the backstroke leg, Franklin recorded a time of 58.39.
At the 2014 U.S. National Championships, Franklin won the 100-meter backstroke with the third fastest American time ever, leading a sweep of the event by Cal Berkeley swimmers. She also won the 200-meter backstroke and the 100-meter freestyle, and finished second in the 200-meter freestyle behind Katie Ledecky.
Despite being hampered by a back injury, Franklin swam in four individual events and three team relays at the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships. In total, she won one gold, two silvers, and one bronze medal.
Franklin won her only individual medal in the 100-meter backstroke by finishing third with a time of 1:00.30. In the 100-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke, she placed fourth. In the 200-meter freestyle, Franklin failed to qualify for the A final, but won the B final with the second-fastest time among all finalists, securing her place on the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in this event.
Franklin teamed with Shannon Vreeland, Leah Smith, and Katie Ledecky to win the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Swimming with Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil, and Vreeland, Franklin placed second in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, and with teammates Jessica Hardy, Kendyl Stewart, and Manuel, she finished second in the 4×100-meter medley relay.
At the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia, Franklin competed in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke, the 100- and 200-meter freestyle, and four relay events. She won a bronze medal as a member of the U.S. team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, and another bronze in the 200-meter freestyle. She finished fifth in the final of the 100-meter backstroke. Franklin won her first gold medal of the 2015 championships as a member of the first-place U.S. team in the women's 4×200-meter freestyle relay. She also won a silver in the 200-meter backstroke event and gold in the mixed 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
On August 15 and 16, Franklin swam in the second stop of the 2015 FINA World Cup. She competed in four events: 100- and 200-meter backstroke; 100- and 200-meter freestyle. In the first day of the races she qualified for the final in the 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter freestyle events where she won bronze and silver, respectively. During the next day of the event, Franklin won silver in 100-meter freestyle and bronze in 100-meter backstroke.
In 2016, Franklin placed second in the 200 m freestyle, 200 m backstroke, and also qualified for the 4 × 200 m freestyle team at the US Olympic Swimming Trials.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics Franklin tied for 13th place in the 200m freestyle semifinals, with a time of 1:57.56, and did not make the cut for the finals. She placed 7th in the 200 meter backstroke for her heat in the semifinals and did not make the finals. Also at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Franklin won a gold medal in the 4 × 200 m freestyle relay for swimming in the heats.As of April 7, 2017
Record set in a short course pool.
Short course record with Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, and Dana Vollmer. Franklin swam the freestyle leg (anchor leg) in a time of 51.32.
Record set with Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, and Allison Schmitt. Franklin swam the backstroke leg (lead-off leg) in a time of 58.50.
Franklin is a Christian. Franklin has spoken about her faith in her life saying, "God is always there for me. I talk with Him before, during and after practice and competitions. I pray to Him for guidance. I thank Him for this talent He has given me, and promise to be a positive role model for young athletes in all sports."
Franklin says her favorite athlete is Natalie Coughlin.
Franklin appeared in a March 2013 episode of Pretty Little Liars as herself. She is the subject of the 2014 documentary Touch the Wall along with Kara Lynn Joyce. The film is directed by Christo Brock and Grant Barbeito, and documents Franklin's and Joyce's journey to the 2012 London Olympics. The film was noted for its celebration of female physical and emotional strength. Franklin had a cameo in the big-budget comedy The Internship, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.