Staying out of the pool means the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponement didn't affect Missy Franklin — though she has thoughts about how she would have reacted if it did

By Eric Todisco and Lindsay Kimble
October 23, 2020 12:14 PM
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Missy Franklin insists her Olympic career is really over — and she's okay with that.

The 25-year-old former swimmer, who earned her fifth and final gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and announced her retirement in December 2018, tells PEOPLE during a recent interview about her work with the USA Swimming Foundation that she's definitely retired for good.

"Out of retirement — absolutely not," Franklin says. "Definitely not to get back in the water. I think, I never got the second shoulder surgery that I needed and I just, I don't really see it getting back in the water at this point in my life being the best thing for my physical or my mental health. I kind of feel like I've given everything I possibly could to the sport and now it's to do good outside of the water."

Franklin says she can barely swim now due to previous shoulder injuries.

Staying out of the pool means the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponement didn't affect Franklin — though she has thoughts about how she would have reacted if it did.

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Missy Franklin
| Credit: Simon Hofmann/Getty

"I think it would have been really hard for me if I'm being honest, because I was already in a point where, in 2018, I was deciding whether or not I was going to retire, whether or not I was going to be able to push through all my shoulder pain and keep swimming through that to try and make it to 2020," she explains to PEOPLE.

Continues Franklin, "So if I think I had made that decision to keep pushing through kind of trusting that I was only going to be in that pain and having to work through that for another year and a half, and then discovering I was going to have to do it for another year. Gosh, I don't know if I would have been able to do it just based on where I was emotionally at that point and everything I'd been dealing with, with my injuries and having to get another surgery."

Franklin says that she knows that a lot of athletes "always step up to the challenge," and imagines that they might have felt motivated by the coronavirus-caused postponement.

Ultimately, she agrees that the delay until next July was the only way forward for the games.

"I think this way it'll be an Olympics like we always know and love. It's just the level playing field and who's ever best in that moment is the best in the world, which is always so fun to watch."