Team USA swimming star Missy Franklin wears many hats. The four-time Olympic gold medalist and 200-meter backstroke women’s world record holder has starred in a viral music video, penned a book with her parents and even copped to her envious skills in the kitchen.
But her favorite role to date? Acting as a mentor to young women.
“I’m confident in who I am as a woman and I try to encourage other young women to do the same and be confident in what they are as well,” Franklin, 21, tells PEOPLE. “I hope they see that I’m true to myself no matter what happens.”
The all-star swimmer, who heads to Rio for her second Summer Olympics, says her “favorite thing” is when girls do school projects on her.
For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.
“Like if they [have] a pick a hero day or pick an inspirational woman day, to have young girls choose me as that, that means so much,” she explains. “On Halloween, some girls came to the door dressed as me and it was, like, the most unbelievable moment ever! It was so humbling, it brought tears to my eyes.”
She adds, “I was so blown away by it. My fans mean the world to me.”
Franklin will compete in the 200-meter backstroke, 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter freestyle relay at the Olympics this month.
And the swimmer says that while she’s in Rio she’ll stay in touch with her fans back home as much as possible, posting photo updates on Twitter and Instagram.
“The best thing about social media is how it lets me interact,” she says. “To get that support, I love being able to see that.”
To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5 on NBC.