Missy Franklin met another new challenge Thursday:
Anchoring a relay in a global championship.
And just to make it a little harder, her U.S. team was 1.12 seconds behind Australia in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay at the World Championships in Barcelona when Franklin’s leg began.
It took her barely 50 meters to wipe out that deficit.
And then Franklin poured it on.
She went on to swim the third fastest 200 split ever, giving the United States the gold by 1.94 seconds over the Aussies and earning her fourth gold medal at worlds.
Franklin’s time, 1 minute, 54.27 seconds, was a stunning 1.75 seconds faster than the splits of the other 31 swimmers in the final. Even subtracting the advantage she got with a flying start – perhaps as much as .75 seconds – the difference still is impressive.
So was Katie Ledecky’s opening leg, from the flat start: 1:56.32. That was fastest of all the leadoff swimmers and third fastest overall.
It was even more impressive given that Ledecky is considered a distance swimmer, as evidenced by her world-record victory in the 1,500 meters and U.S.-record victory in the 400. The 16-year-old Marylander is odds-on to win her fourth gold of the meet in the 800 meters.
She and Franklin, 18, were joined on the relay by Shannon Vreeland (1:56.97) and Karlee Bispo (1:57.58), the last a member of the world team only because Ledecky chose not to swim the individual 200.
Earlier in the day, Franklin had swum a personal best in the morning heat of the 100 free (53.36) and returned to win her semifinal 90 minutes before the relay final. That led Australia's Cate Campbell, the 100 favorite, reportedly to call Franklin "Wonder Woman."
"It is kind motivating and inspiring (to swim) with Missy," Vreeland said. "I have swum all my (five races) with her Missy, and she just gets out there every time and leaves it all in the pool and still comes back for more. . .I think `Wonder Woman is a pretty good description in all sorts of ways."
*Rikke Pedersen became the first Danish swimmer to hold a world record in 57 years when she clocked 2 minutes, 11.19 seconds in the semis of the 200 breaststroke. (The final is Friday). She broke the mark of 2:19.59 set by Rebecca Soni of the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic final.
*Naperville’s Kevin Cordes, a sensation in NCAA short-course swimming (25-yard pools), still is trying to master long course (50 meters) on the international level.
"Long course is a completely different race," Cordes said in a Tribune interview this summer. "The best in the world train long course all the time. For me, training long course (is just) the short span (since the end of the college season)."
That was evident again when Cordes went out too fast in the semis of the 200 breastroke (under world record pace) and faded, missing the final by .02. His time (2:10.03) was considerably slower than his winning performance (2:08.34) at last month’s U.S. Championships, which had made the Arizona junior econd fastest in the world this season.
"It's disappointing, but I can only learn from it and use it as motivation," Cordes said. "I'll remember that feeling of missing out on the final, and it will make me work harder in the pool."