Becoming Number Two

Say you’re really good at your job—the best manager at your small company, really, because everyone tells you so. And then one day there’s an announcement that your small company is adding another manager to the team, and that manager is going to be Warren Buffett or Sheryl Sandberg or Bill Gates or Hilary Clinton. Amazing, right? Or are you saddened that your star is dimmed because this other amazing person is at your company now and is receiving all the attention?

“It’s really frustrating when Missy kind of shines above everything,” said Bonnie Brandon, who before graduating last spring was Colorado’s greatest-ever female high-school swimmer next to Franklin. “She’s No. 1 in the world, and No. 1 in the state, and then I’m No. 2 in the state.…It’s just hard being in close proximity,” said Brandon, now a University of Arizona swimming star.

This is a story about Olympic gold medal swimming champion Missy Franklin deciding to return to her high school to swim as an amateur and forgoing an estimated $3 million a year in endorsement deals. It’s wonderful.

Photo: nrcphotos


26 Comments / Post A Comment

probs (#296)

Years ago I remember reading studies about how being outperformed by people who are directly comparable to you, with proxomity being a big factor in that, does tend to be more discouraging for people. Seeing someone on tv blowing your time away is surely different than if they’re in the lane next to you. It removes the layer of abstraction that helps you feel accomplished despite not being the best there is.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

Normally I think that competition can enhance performance by giving you extra motivation. In a case like this though, where the competition is presumably not someone you could realistically catch up with, I can see how it would be kind of disheartening.

Lily Rowan (#70)

I don’t see why it would even be fun for Missy. I mean, being on the team at practices and stuff, sure, but just blowing away everyone at a meet? Meh.

Swimming’s a team sport, and Missy’s wins help her team win. She probably doesn’t get the same thrill beating high school competitors as she does Olympic swimmers, but I’d imagine helping your team win the state title is a very different feeling for a 17-year-old. The Cherry Creek team comes off as having some pretty sour grapes for a team with 26 state titles in the past 38 years.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Sydney Bufkin@twitter Oh, that’s a good point — helping the school win States is a good one.

And yeah, Cherry Creek can basically bite me.

Markham (#1,862)

@Sydney Bufkin@twitter

She’s a world class competitor though, she’s won a gold medal.

The majority of the people she’s racing against won’t race past high school, some will make college but never be stars, maybe one will get to the world class level in college.

It just isn’t fair.

If she wants to race as an amateur she can do that in professional races, and college races will let her in too. It does nothing for her as an athlete to race people who can’t even push her, it could hurt her by making her complacent actually.

Yes, a state title is cool, but let the other girls win that on their own as opposed to bringing in someone who is the best in the world.

Most athletes in Olympic sports who don’t want to go pro still stop racing high school kids once they get to that level, there isn’t a point and it’s not good sportsmanship.

In Jr. High there were kids who decided to play another year of little league instead of Jr. high Baseball so they could dominate younger kids, it wasn’t a respectable move then, so why is it cool for Missy to do it just because she turned down money.

There is no thrill of victory when there is no chance you can lose.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Markham What if there is someone at one of these high schools who can beat her? It’s wrong to tell any athlete that she’s too good to participate. It is especially wrong towards the other athletes. Let them compete against her. Let them try! I would be impressed with any high school kid who got in the pool and swam against her.

Markham (#1,862)


She has world class competition she can compete against, as a competitor I see zero point in racing people that have no chance against me.

I’d rather push myself by racing people who are in my league.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Markham Where? The Olympics come but every four years. Should she not swim against anyone until then? Missy Franklin, you are just too good and everyone else sucks. Out of the water!

Markham (#1,862)

I disagree with Franklin swimming in high school.

I was a Track Star in high school, ran Divison I in college and was fast enough in High School (albeit barely) to have a legit hope to maybe (mind you a long shot) qualify for the Olympic Trials.

So I get the competitive mindset, easy, and I’d rather race people who are a lot better than me than win because it helps you get better.


Missy is an Olympian with gold medals.

In certain events she’s the best in the world.

If she doesn’t want to turn pro, fine, she can still get into professional races as an Amateur.

It does her no good as an athlete and is just plain rude to race against high school kids with no chance against her, seriously, what’s the point?

I currently race Masters events (30+) and there is a huge variety of athletes, former college athletes like me who could still run on a college team and people who weren’t good in high school.

I’ve had races where less than 0.01 separated me and the guy who beat me (or lost to me) and I’ve had races where I won by several seconds.

I feel bad about the latter, love the former. So I avoid races where I know I won’t have much competition, let someone else have fun.

I wouldn’t necessarily gripe about racing Missy in public, but, what she’s doing is kind of not cool.

She’s the best in the world, there is a HUGE difference between her and someone who is just good enough for college or just good for high school.

I may not believe in the idea that you shouldn’t run up the score, but I definitely don’t believe in competing against people in an individual sport who have no chance against you. It’s just rude.

If I had won medals in Track & Field at say the Olympics or worlds in High School I would’ve stopped competing against other high school kids, because (again)

1) Does nothing for me to help me improve
2) Discouraging to other competitors
3) There is no point, the other athletes have no chance.

I think people are not criticizing Missy because she turned down money, so people think in terms of “she just loves the sport” angle. But how about the kids who say instead of playing on their Jr. high school team, play little league against elementary school kids so they can dominate, do we cheer them?


If Missy wants to stay an amateur she can do that and still race world class competition, just enter the races as an Amateur, people do it all the time.

This isn’t cool.

In a sport where races are determined by 0.1 and .01 seconds in races with people of similar talent, she’s winning by several seconds, feels like bullying.

chic noir (#713)

@Markham what??? Masters in Track&Field is now 30 plus???? How is this so when world class athletes still win metals up until age 37?
A few that come to mind:

Merlene Ottely
Linford Christie
Felex Sanchez
Frankie Fredricks
Carmelita Jeter.
Jackie Joyner Cursie
Gwen Torrence
to name a few
Anyway, what event did you run?

@Markham Missy may or may not get some sort of personal thrill out of winning. Who knows. But she’s part of a team–a team she’s been training with and competing with for years, a team that’s likely encouraged her and helped her improve. And she’s probably got quite a bit of school spirit–she’s 17 years old, after all. What 17-year-old wouldn’t want to help her school win a state title? Even if you’ve won Olympic medals, that probably feels good. She attends the school, so she gets to compete for them. It’s not like she’s some ringer they’ve brought in just so they can win the title.

If the high school band has a world-class cellist, should she be prohibited from competing with the rest of the band? How much better is too good to compete? 1st and 2nd may be determined by 0.1 or .01 seconds, but there are still kids out there who are losing by much more than that–this is a high school swim meet we’re talking about. Should they be put in different races? What about all those kids who got beat really badly by the elite Cherry Creek swimmers? Was that fair?

@Sydney Bufkin@twitter Make that orchestra. I’m not musical. But I do remember from high school that those kids were always competing in something.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Sydney Bufkin@twitter Excellent point! If she was on a basketball team, would she not get to play as part of the team? Missy isn’t the only one swimming. If her high school kicked everyone else off the swim team except for her, that would be wrong. But there are other members of the team who compete with her.

Markham (#1,862)

@Sydney Bufkin@twitter

We’re not talking about an elite high school athlete who is always expected to win, but has to push themselves, has “some” competition, etc.

We’re talking about the #1 Swimmer in the world at certain events.

It’s a stretch to say she’s competing.

As an athlete I don’t see the thrill in beating people who have zero chance against you.

A lot of high school aged athletes did well in the past Olympics, and while not all of them went pro I don’t know of any other besides Missy who kept competing against high school kids who can’t challenge them.

Missy can compete in college races, pro races, while still in high school and not go pro.

A good Sportsperson would do that instead of racing high school kids for no reason.

Generally speaking I have no problem with dominating, or elite athletes racing average, nor would I say she shouldn’t be allowed, I just think that if you’re in high school and you’re winning Olympic medals you should have the integrity to say: “I’m so beyond this level of competition that I shouldn’t be involved in it anymore”

Grow up, move on.

EM (#1,012)

I’m not much of a team sport person, but I thought the point of team sports was building camaraderie and discipline, not winning. I mean, if the point is winning, then it’s unfair if you let someone on a team who is always going to win. But if it’s about school spirit, and working hard, and team-building, then who cares? Learning to lose gracefully is a good quality to have in life.

Also, you know, as Kiki Dunst said in Bring It On, “I define being the best as competing against the best and winning.” Winning just because the people who are better than you weren’t competing is sort of a hollow victory.

Markham (#1,862)

@Michelle “Winning just because the people who are better than you weren’t competing is sort of a hollow victory.”

I love this.

Missy can compete in college meets as an unattached athlete, pro meets would love to have her too. She doesn’t need to go pro, she can swim in those races and continue to develop as an athlete.

Racing the competition she’s racing now seems boring and like you said: “A hollow victory”.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Markham I think you read Michelle’s quote wrong. She said that if Missy isn’t competing, the other team winning is a hollow victory, because they know they aren’t competing against a great athlete. You have told us several times Missy shouldn’t be competing at this level.

selenana (#673)

@josefinastrummer Or… it’s a hollow victory for Missy because she isn’t competeing against the best. Quote could be read either way.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@selenana No, it really can’t be read either way. There is always someone better and no one knows it until they compete against the best. I think those Cherry Creek kids are lucky to compete against an Olympic athlete who had parents and coaches willing to dedicate their time to train someone. Not everyone has the support Missy Franklin has but some of them may have the skill.

honey cowl (#1,510)

A+ for the Bring it On reference. This is not a democracy, this is a cheerocracy.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@Lauren argh that was supposed to be @Michelle.

EM (#1,012)

@Lauren Bring It On references are applicable to so much of my life.

chic noir (#713)

No Shade to Missy Franklin but if her parents are of humble means I don’t think this was a smart move on her part. 3 million dollars is a lot of money. She could set herself up for life or at least have a very nice nest egg.

The world we live in today, there are no guarantees on any type of job. How many college graduates are now working minimum wage jobs? What if she or her parents develop a disease that their health insurance won’t pay for? What if her dad loses his job? What if 20 years from now she finds herself with two special needs children and widowed?

Just saying.
*kayne shrug*

As long as she wouldn’t have to endorse anything that compromises her morals,she should go for it and bank it or give half to charity and bank the rest.

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