Nightly News | July 31, 2012
>>> finally tonight, we wanted you to meet one of the stars of these games, even though they're just getting underway. missy franklin , you'll see her again in the pool tonight in prime time . back home she's in high school . last night as she won her first individual gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke, her classmates were going wild as they watched live from our nbc station in denver, kusa. tonight, chris jansen talks with missy and her parents about the making of an american champion.
>> reporter: watching 17-year-old missy franklin power her way to gold on monday and flashing her winning smile --
>> i couldn't be happier.
>> reporter: -- it has to be hard for her parents not to think back.
>> what are you playing with?
>> a noodle.
>> reporter: to a little girl snorkeling in the pool before she was three. and fearlessly swimming with dolphins when she was five. the kindergartener who wrote about how much she loved her team. long before she became the breakout star of the 2011 world championships --
>> shatters the american record.
>> reporter: missy franklin just loved the water.
>> we would sit by the pool for hours after hours after hours. that child would go in and play. we'd take turns. she would never come out.
>> being in the water, i can just let everything go.
>> reporter: she was built for the part, 6'1", with a 72 inch wing span . and a work ethic that's earned the admiration of quarterback tim tebow , who used to work out at the same gym.
>> she's doing it because she has a passion for it. it's exciting to see.
>> reporter: passion but no preten pretense. she's been training with the same coach at the local swim club since she was 7. just a few miles from home in centennial, colorado. where the dinner conversation is more likely to be about her beloved dog or her mom's world class lasagna, than the world championships .
>> i have the best parents in the entire world. they have taught me to love with my whole heart. and to be open, and to be kind to everyone.
>> reporter: like any other teen, she was thrilled to finally get her license. and drives herself to high school . in all honors classes. but that's not the only thing that makes her exceptional.
>> she's a good quality kid, great ethics, great morals.
>> reporter: and surprisingly, she still competes for high school .
>> swimming on my high school team is unbelievable, they're my second family.
>> reporter: she made a pretty remarkable decision, turning down six figures in prize money and endorsements, just so she could continue to be part of a team in college. something she couldn't do if she turned pro.
>> i know, i know, it's so much money. but i can't put a price on friendship. or teammates or that second family. there's no price for that.
>> reporter: at a pep rally to send missy off to the olympics, you see melissa jeanette franklin feared by many a competitor, is really all heart.
>> i love you so much. knowing no matter what happens this summer i still get to come home to you is the best feeling in the world.
>> reporter: but a feeling that just might be matched by standing atop the olympic podium. missy said winning gold for her country was 100 million times more than what she thought it would be. look at this reunion with her family. they are so close, that whatever comes her way now, i cannot believe she won't stay grounded. she really is as impressive out of the pool as she is in it.
>> it's so nice to see her just being a high schoolkid.
>> she is so typically teenager.
>> chris jansing , great story. thank you for sharing it with