RIO DE JANEIRO - Missy Franklin soared at the 2012 London Games. She was one of America's breakout stars, a 17-year-old who splashed her way to four gold medals.
Rio has been an utterly different story. Franklin's nightmare week continued - and concluded - when she failed to earn a place in Friday's finals of the 200-meter backstroke. Franklin finished 14th in the semis, swimming 2:09.74. In 2012, she swam to a world and Olympic record 2:04.06.
Earlier in the week, Franklin had failed to make the final of the 200-meter freestyle and was removed at the final minute from swimming on the 4 x 200 freestyle relay.
"I felt a little bit like David vs. Goliath, but I felt I didn't have any stones in my pocket," Franklin said of her struggles this week. "I'm never going to back down. I'm going to keep fighting, and I'm going to come back stronger than ever."
Many have tried to explain Franklin's tumble. One of those many is Franklin. She's tried, and failed, to understand what's gone wrong.
"The time is nowhere near what I think I'm capable of doing but for some reason it's just not there right now," she said. "I wish I had an excuse, but I don't and I'm not going to make up one.
"I worked as hard as I possibly could. I did everything I could think of doing. For some reason, I fell more short than I ever have before and I wish so much that there was an explanation for that."
Franklin has remained cheerful and supportive of teammates, said Maya Dirado, who qualified for Friday's backstroke final.
"You would never know how she's swimming based on how she's interacting with her team," Dirado said. "That's the sign of a true champion and a true leader. No one is upset with her. No one is mad at her. We just want her to be happy."
Franklin said she plans to return to Colorado next week to relax and spend time with her cats.