(LONDON) — If the experience of past Olympians is any guide, gold-medalist swimmer Missy Franklin could be swimming in money after she heads home to Colorado from the London games.
But the teenager has defied conventions in nearly every aspect of her path to London, where she has already won three gold medals and one bronze. Now Franklin, 17, will forgo immediate fortunes in endorsements and prize money to remain an amateur.
In an indication of what Franklin is passing up, gymnast Gabby Douglas — America’s other darling of the Olympics — will appear on a special-edition box of Corn Flakes, Kellogg announced Friday.
Rather than star on a cereal box, Franklin would like to compete in college. Skipping endorsement deals and the promo-laden route to Michael Phelps-like celebrity is the latest in Franklin’s I’ll-do-it-my-way style.
Her income from deals would likely be “in the millions,” according to Ronald Oswalt, CEO of the San Marcos, Texas-based Sports Marketing Experts.
Franklin, who will soon be a high school senior in Aurora, Colo., has already turned down $100,000 in prize money and many times that in endorsements, the Wall Street Journal estimated.
But Franklin’s decision to maintain amateur status, a requirement for competing in the NCAA, might have a long-term personal payoff, if not a financial one, said Oswalt, who specializes in connecting athletes with sponsorships.
“Winning a gold medal can be priceless, but cashing in on the glory could or couldn’t turn into happiness,” he said.
Oswalt applauds Franklin’s parents for not pressuring her to reap monetary rewards from her success in the pool.
“So many parents push their kids,” he said. “They think the Olympics are going to be their payday, but her dreams have already come true.”
The decision might also have been a prudent one because of the pressures that high-profile endorsements bring, said Evan Morgenstein, a sports agent who has represented U.S. Olympic swimmers Dara Torres and Janet Evans. With endorsements come many requirements and, often, a commitment to perform for years, he said.
Franklin’s decision could not have surprised those who have followed her unorthodox career.
Since age 7, Franklin has stuck with the same coach she was paired with the first day she walked into a Colorado swimming club, which did not even own its own pool. She did not move to a part of the country known for producing swimming gold medalists like Florida or California. Her coach, Todd Schmitz, is now a member of the U.S. Olympic coaching staff.
Franklin’s famous versatility in the pool — she qualified for seven events in London, two of them the very different backstroke and freestyle — is a result of her unconventional refusal to specialize in a single stroke early on.
Franklin only endeared herself more this week when she dedicated her Olympic victories to the victims in her hometown of the movie theater massacre that killed 12 and injured 58.
“Everything I’ve done here is for them,” she said immediately after breaking the 200-meter backstroke world record for her third gold medal.
Even without appearing on television for sandwich commercials, as Phelps famously did, Franklin’s cheerful demeanor has long made her a media sweetheart. After a triumphant trip to London, she is likely to keep that status, even if she does it from a collegiate swimming pool. And after all, Oswalt said, she is only 17.
“She should enjoy her senior year,” he said. “She can make a decision in 2014 or 2015. She still has time.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio