Missy Franklin turned 17 this past May and was many people's (including me) pick to snatch up some gold in London. She won her first Olympic gold medal today after setting the American record in the 100-m backstroke with a time of 58.33 s. Why is she so good, besides a great work ethic and fantastic trainers?
First of all, Miss Franklin is a tall female at 6' 1.5" (1.87 m). More importantly, she has a wingspan of 6' 4" (1.93 m). For most "normal" people, our wingspans are about the same as our heights. Those long arms provide increased leverage, meaning they shovel more water out of her way with each stroke than what "normal" people can shovel. At 6' 4" (1.93 m) tall with a 6' 7" (2.01 m) wingspan, Michael Phelps has a similar advantageous build.
Franklin's lengthy torso acts like a boat's hull in the water. Watch her when she swims underwater and you'll see her long legs undulating in a way similar to how a dolphin propels itself through the sea. Franklin also has large hands and feet (size 13). It's hard not to think of flippers when you watch those hands and feet in action in the water. For comparison, Michael Phelps wears size 14 shoes.
We live in a age in which training methods have become imbued with the latest scientific advances. Better equipment, nutrition, and health care have helped athletes push the envelope of what humans can achieve in athletic competition. There are an elite few, like Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps, who posses a genetic makeup that gave them bodies almost perfectly suited for their chosen sports.
The final of the 200-m backstroke is this Friday. Are you going to bet against Miss Franklin?!?