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Missy Franklin feels right at home as Cal freshman

Thursday - 8/29/2013, 2:44pm  ET

University of California women’s swimming & diving head coach Teri McKeever, left, gestures beside CAL freshman Missy Franklin during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, in Berkeley, Calif. One of the most renowned swimmers in the world, Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London and recently captured a record six gold medals at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. She will be joining a Cal women’s program that claimed NCAA team titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and was the national runner-up this past season. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Missy Franklin strolled into the room at Memorial Stadium and offered a cheery, "Hi, everybody!"

She has moved into a dorm, hit it off with her new roommate and even cried her eyes out when she said goodbye to her mother.

"It feels like home already," a beaming Franklin said Wednesday.

Yet she is far from a typical 18-year-old college freshman beginning the first day of her fall semester Thursday.

The four-time swimming gold medalist at last summer's London Olympics, Franklin's mere presence at California has caused quite a stir, a positive one -- from fellow students asking her to pose for photos, to carefully watching where she goes and what she Tweets and taking into account how her arrival affects teammates who must adjust to swimming laps alongside one of the sport's biggest international stars day in and day out.

Coach Teri McKeever and Franklin have planned for it all.

Each believes Berkeley is the perfect place for Franklin to find a new "normal" -- albeit a high-profile existence that has McKeever just slightly on edge. There have been conversations with police and campus security, and guidance on how to deal with harassment. The coach will talk to her student-athletes about being cautious to keep everybody safe and protect Franklin's privacy.

Franklin said she and her parents have thought about and discussed many possible scenarios and what she could face being away from her home in Centennial, Colo., in a college town for the first time. Steering clear of peer pressures, parties, all of that.

"There's so many things we have to consider and have to think about. My parents have taught me so well," Franklin said. "We're very aware of everything I think we need to be aware of. I feel very confident going to school and starting this new experience. I still feel that even though there might be that microscope, I can still have as normal of a college experience as I can. It's not limiting for me."

McKeever has been at this long enough to be a realist. Yet she would rather look at Franklin's arrival at Cal as "an incredible opportunity" rather than any kind of a burden, no matter how others feel.

"There are some people who don't want to be Missy Franklin's teammates ... or don't want Teri McKeever as their coach," she said. "I think some of her teammates are going to see it's not fun to be Missy Franklin."

Not that the ever-upbeat Franklin can be convinced of that. She learned in a hurry after winning four gold medals and a bronze in London that the attention would be relentless. She acknowledged "it definitely was a bit of a shock."

Fresh off a record-setting world championships in Barcelona, Franklin is turning her attention to the books. Though she sure got a thrill from pulling on her new Cal swim cap for the first time this week. The Golden Bears will hold meetings through the weekend and are scheduled to work out in the pool for the first time Sept. 5.

"I had so much fun moving in. Honestly, it's been awesome," Franklin said. "A couple pictures here and there meeting new people but that's just kind of what I've been used to, what I've been getting accustomed to in the past couple months since London. It's definitely fun making new friends and so exciting."

Remarkably poised and polished, even McKeever -- who coached the U.S. women's team at the Olympics -- figures Franklin might have her tough moments at some point.

"I want to see her bad hair day. I haven't seen it yet. My life as a 51-year-old tells me there are days you can't be this happy, can't be this put together," McKeever said. "I think this community, this department, this team, the current team we have right now, are going to give her the greatest gift of her life -- to be part of a team."

When Franklin visited in January for parents' weekend, she was in the pool before a Cal meet and looked up to McKeever and said, "I can't believe I'm in the Cal pool, it's been my dream to swim here."

"I started laughing and said, 'Yeah, my dream, too,'" McKeever said, laughing. "The interest and the attention has been enormous."

When Franklin called McKeever last fall with the news she would come to Cal, the coach was so nervous she didn't take the call, which came during the Big Game rivalry football matchup between Cal and Stanford.

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