LONDON -- Missy Franklin stared out on the horde of reporters, suddenly sounding very much like a high school senior-to-be. "I don't like being up here alone," she said nervously.
Then, just like that, she turned on a big smile and worked the room like a pro.
Thanks to this Colorado teenager, America's swim hopes are back on track at the Olympics.
Michael Phelps has yet to win a gold medal, and Ryan Lochte's star has dimmed just a bit. So it was Franklin providing a much-needed boost to swimming's powerhouse nation, coming back less than 14 minutes after swimming a semifinal heat to win the first gold medal of what figures to be a dazzling career.
"Indescribable," the 17-year-old Franklin said after rallying to win the 100-meter backstroke Monday. "I still can't believe that happened. I don't even know what to think. I saw my parents' reaction on the screen and I just started bawling. I can't even think right now."
After finishing up the semis of the 200 freestyle, she hopped out of the pool and headed to the diving well for a quick warmdown. She didn't even have time to make it to the practice pool, not when her bigger event was coming right up.
Even Phelps was amazed at Franklin's stamina, saying he had never done back-to-back races that close together at such a major meet. His quickest turnaround was about a half-hour.
"She's a racer and she knows what to do," Phelps said.
Franklin, who was rattled less than two weeks before the Olympics by the Aurora theater shooting not far from her home, barely advanced from the 200 free semis. She qualified for Tuesday night's final with the eighth-fastest time, but clearly she was saving something for the race that really mattered.
She's still got five more events to go, having started her Olympics with a relay bronze and leaving plenty of time to come away from these games as America's big star in the post-Phelps era.
Australia's Emily Seebohm, the top qualifier, led at the turn and was under world-record pace, but Franklin showed a remarkable finishing kick. With her arms whirling and size-13 feet pounding the water, the 6-foot-1 swimmer passed the Aussie in the final 25 meters and lunged toward the wall for a winning time of 58.33 seconds.
She broke into a big smile but was clearly exhausted, her head dropping back against the wall. Seebohm settled for silver in 58.68 and Japan's Aya Terakawa took bronze in 58.83.
"You never know until you see that scoreboard, so I was just going as fast as I could until I got my hand on the wall," Franklin said. "It was 110 percent effort, and all the work paid off."
Someone noticed afterward that Franklin wasn't wearing her medal.
She pulled it out of her pocket and marveled, "Isn't it pretty."
Then, she showed her age again. There's still one more year to go at Regis Jesuit High.
"My junior year was awesome," Franklin said. "I can't wait to go back to Regis!"