American swimming superstar Missy Franklin shares the pain of those athletes who have been forced to put their dreams of glory at Tokyo 2020 on hold.
The five-time Olympic champion is still haunted by her enforced retirement at the age of just 23 in 2018 due to a shoulder injury – wrecking her own hopes of becoming the most decorated female swimmer of all time.
Franklin told laureus.com: “I never expected that my career was going to be over at 23. I never wanted it to be.
“That was something that from the moment I stepped on to the Olympic stage in London, I really, really believed I could do.
“It makes a dream and a goal even harder to lose, when you really, truly believe that you can do it, and you don’t.”
The 17-year-old Franklin was seen as a potential future history-maker when she swept to four gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics, but injury meant she was unable to repeat the feat in Rio, settling for a single relay gold.
She added: “Every athlete from every country in the world is going to have to deal with this.
“There is not one country or one group of athletes that is going to have an advantage. It’s going to be a level playing field on day one of the Olympic Games in Tokyo ’21.
“Sport is sport and you never know what is going to happen in a year. Look at Katie Ledecky in 2012. No one knew who she was in March, and she won a gold medal in August. Then she went on to become the Katie Ledecky we all know.”
Franklin, a Laureus Academy member is currently sitting out the coronavirus lockdown with her husband Hayes Johnson in their home near Denver, Colorado.
She added: “What’s hard is when you’re really close to your loved ones and you can’t hug them, that’s a really weird feeling to have.
“I’m going to take away so much gratitude for every hug that I get with my parents for the rest of my life.”