SANTA CLARA -- Missy Franklin was headed to Santa Cruz to body surf with Cal teammates and coaches two weeks ago when her mother called.

Fellow Colorado Olympian Amy Van Dyken-Rouen had been in a serious accident, D.A. Franklin told her daughter.

Franklin, 19, once wanted to be like Van Dyken-Rouen, Colorado's biggest swim star before "The Missile" took off in recent years.

"That is who I was trying to live up to, that is who inspired me growing up," Franklin said Friday at the Arena Grand Prix Santa Clara.

Now it is Franklin who is inspiring the next generation of young swimmers.

Cal’s Missy Franklin looks at her time in the 100M freestyle during the Arena Santa Clara Grand Prix swim meet at George F. Haines International
Cal's Missy Franklin looks at her time in the 100M freestyle during the Arena Santa Clara Grand Prix swim meet at George F. Haines International Aquatic Center in Santa Clara on June 20, 2014. Franklin came in second with a 54.51. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

In her first meet of the summer season, the Cal sophomore finished second to incoming Stanford freshman Simone Manuel in the 100-meter freestyle but left the pool smiling because of a good time -- 54.51 seconds. Franklin also swam the 100 butterfly preliminaries in the morning as a training exercise.

Franklin's thoughts, though, are with her former idol who is a six-time Olympic gold medalist.

Van Dyken-Rouen, 41, severed her spinal cord in an ATV accident in Arizona. She flew home to Colorado on Wednesday to begin rehabilitation.

"We don't know what's going to happen," Van Dyken-Rouen told reporters before boarding a plane. "I have no feeling from probably my pubic bone down."


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Santa Clara meet organizers dedicated the 100 butterfly Friday night to Van Dyken-Rouen, who was a regular fixture at the Silicon Valley event when she dominated the race.

News of the swimmer's accident broke Franklin's heart but "hearing about also how lighthearted she's been and how she's still herself through the whole process doesn't surprise me at all," Franklin said. "It's so special and inspiring to hear someone who's been through an accident like that still be able to stay true to her self."

Van Dyken-Rouen tweeted Friday that Franklin inspires her after seeing this newspaper's story online.

Felicia Lee, who graduated from Stanford last weekend, won the 100 butterfly in 59.62 seconds, the only woman to break the one-minute barrier.

"Amy is a fighter," Lee said. "She's so strong and has always stayed connected to swimming."

Franklin has inherited that fighting spirit during her remarkable career. With a trademark smile on her face, she won four gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games. Then Franklin won an unprecedented six gold medals at last year's world championships before starting college life in Berkeley.

The swimmer plans to compete collegiately one more year before turning professional while training at Cal ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Franklin, who recently moved into a Berkeley apartment, credited her first collegiate season with helping set up an important summer. The four-day meet at the George F. Haines International Aquatic Center is one of the final major tuneups before the U.S. championships Aug. 6-10 in Irvine.

The national meet serves as a qualifier for the Pan-Pacific Championships in August in Australia and the 2015 world championships in Russia.

"It's a lot of pressure now, but it's really nice next summer when all we have to focus on is the worlds," Franklin said.

  • Defending Olympic champion Nathan Adrian of Berkeley held off Michael Phelps in the men's 100 freestyle, as the former Cal star won easily in 48.17 seconds. Phelps was second in 48.80, followed by North Baltimore teammate Conor Dwyer in 49.76.

    Cal’s Missy Franklin swims the 100M freestyle during the Arena Santa Clara Grand Prix swim meet at George F. Haines International Aquatic Center in
    Cal's Missy Franklin swims the 100M freestyle during the Arena Santa Clara Grand Prix swim meet at George F. Haines International Aquatic Center in Santa Clara on June 20, 2014. Franklin came in second with a 54.51. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

    Later, Phelps tied former Cal swimmer Tom Shields in the 100 butterfly in the night's most dramatic race. But the 22-time Olympic medalist wasn't happy with his time of 52.11 seconds. However, Phelps sounded pleased with his freestyle and was equally happy to survive two races in one night. It was his most rigorous racing schedule since coming out of retirement this season.

  • Former Cal star Natalie Coughlin announced via Twitter that she's withdrawn from the Santa Clara meet after spending two weeks competing in Europe.

    Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.