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Olympic champion Missy Franklin signs national letter of intent to swim for California

Missy Franklin pranked California women's swimming coach Teri McKeever when it came time for the five-time Olympic medalist to announce her choice of college.

The 17-year-old led McKeever into thinking she had lost out on arguably the most decorated recruit to enter college swimming.

"My heart sank for about 30 seconds until she cleared it up," McKeever said by phone.

Franklin made it official on Wednesday, signing a national letter of intent to swim for the Golden Bears starting next September. The Centennial, Colo., resident plans to swim collegiately for two years and then turn pro before the 2016 Rio Olympics.

McKeever said the plan is for Franklin to earn her college degree and continue training with the Bears as part of their post-graduate ranks, which have included Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

Franklin joins a Cal team that is the two-time defending NCAA champion. She was part of a recruiting class that included five other swimmers and a diver.

Franklin's signing capped a busy week for the teenager who won four gold medals and a bronze at the London Olympics under McKeever, who was the U.S. women's coach. Franklin swept the backstroke events in London, with her other three medals coming on relays.

She won five events at last weekend's Minneapolis Grand Prix, her first meet since the games, and then was in New York on Tuesday night to be honored at Glamour magazine's Women of the Year awards.

"She's very talented, she's done some amazing things," McKeever said. "I'm impressed with her character, drive, and perspective of the sport."

Franklin knows she's giving up big bucks to go to college for two years instead of immediately cashing in on her Olympic glory. But that hasn't stopped her from having some fun. She's made the TV talk show rounds and taped an appearance on ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" to air later this season.

McKeever argues that Franklin could be worth even more in the future.

"Does Missy Franklin have the ability to make millions? Yes, I think she does," the coach said. "If she earns a degree and broadens her 17-year-old person, she's going to be more marketable and make a bigger difference in the world.

"It's going to be awesome that she's going to have two years to have some space to figure out what is important to her and how does she want to make a difference."