Missy Franklin was not the first 17-year-old female swimmer to catch the world's attention in the Olympics. There was Kathleen Ellis who became a teenage sensation at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Ellis went four-for-four in medals at the Games 50 years ago, but it was a different time and a long way from Indiana.
"I think I relied on the news people to let them know," Ellis said.
The Indianapolis native won two gold and two bronze medals.
"I started swimming in the fall of '59 and won my first Nationals in '61," Ellis said.
Two years later, she won gold at the Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil and then turned around and set a new world record for the 100-meter butterfly in the US Nationals, which led to her first encounter with legendary Olympic broadcaster Jim McKay.
"I set my world record and afterwards, it's High Point, North Carolina. You know how girls are, and he looked at me, I just set a world record and he asked, 'Is that lipstick you have on?' I don't know what to say," Ellis said.
Then it was off to Tokyo, where she anchored two gold medal-winning relays and finished third in two individual events. At age 17, she swam eight events, which brings about direct comparisons to current teenage swimming sensation, Missy Franklin.
"As people talk about kids being so young and, I think, minimizing their accomplishments. Of course you can be an elite athlete and a world record holder and be young. Why not? You don't have to be 25 to set world records. You can set them when you are 14, 15 or 16. I don't think they should be minimized. I think you just worked real hard. You happened to be talented and you are just the faster on the planet at the time," Ellis said. "I think it's interesting when you hear people say but you missed out on this that and the other and 'No, look at what I did! I got to go to South America. I went to Japan'."
Today, Ellis is still remembered as one of Indiana's greatest Olympians.
"Four medals in one Olympic Games is quite a few. Still, so I am proud of what I did and, oh gosh, and yeah, I would do it again," she said.
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