Retired swimmer Missy Franklin won four gold medals at the 2012 London Summer Olympics and then added a fifth four years later in Rio. Now she says that she struggles to swim after walking away from the sport in December 2018. Franklin explained that previous shoulder injuries cause issues when she gets in the pool.
"I really can't," Franklin told PEOPLE during an exclusive interview. "I mean, my shoulders are in so much pain that I can maybe hop in the pool and swim easy for 20, 30 minutes, but that's about as much as my old broken shoulders can handle at this point." She also made it very clear that returning to competitive swimming is not on the table.
"I never got the second shoulder surgery that I needed and I just — I don't really see getting back in the water at this point in my life being the best thing for my physical or my mental health," Franklin continued. "I kind of feel like I've given everything I possibly could to the sport and now it's to do good outside of the water."
When Franklin retired in 2018, she explained that the lingering shoulder injury and an upcoming wedding played a role in her deciding to walk away from a sport where she found considerable success. She said that she is ready to "not be in pain every day" and that she was ready to become a wife and a mother at some point.
"Missy Franklin has left an indelible mark on the sport of swimming that goes far beyond her competitive accomplishments," Speedo USA President John Graham said in a statement when the Olympian announced her retirement. "Since taking the global stage as a teenager, she has inspired us all with her passion for the water, indomitable spirit and contagious smile. We are proud to have been a part of Missy's journey from the start, and will undoubtedly continue to support her endeavors as she takes on this new chapter."
According to PEOPLE, Franklin is currently serving as an ambassador to the USA Swimming Foundation. She is working on the Saving Lives is Always in Season campaign, which promotes keeping pools open year-round. Franklin told the outlet that the goal is to bring awareness to the fact that swimming lessons are not just for the summer. She said that she wants parents to get their kids in the pool so they can learn an important life-saving skill.