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Missy Franklin turning pro to focus on Olympic preparations

Missy Franklin has bid farewell to college swimming and is turning pro. The four-time Olympic gold medalist went out with a bang, winning three individual events and helping her California team win the NCAA championship last weekend. Now, Franklin can start competing for money and endorsement deals, and she’s signed with a sports agent connected to Hollywood.

Franklin told The Associated Press in a phone interview that she’s chosen Mark Ervin of WME-IMG to represent her. She will be the first swimmer in his client stable that includes Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn. Ervin used to work with Olympic snowboarder Shaun White. “I am so confident in my choice,” she said. “I felt this incredible connection with him. I feel like 100 percent we stand for the same things.”

The swimmer, who turns 20 in May, had help in making the decision. Her parents vetted a slew of potential representatives and narrowed down the field, allowing Franklin to enjoy her second — and last — year as a collegiate athlete. “There’s no one that knows me better than my parents,” said Franklin, an only child.

WME-IMG is based in Beverly Hills, California, and some of its other athletes include tennis player Maria Sharapova and NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Besides sports, the mega-agency has ties to entertainment, fashion and event management. “This is a new chapter of my life,” Franklin told the AP. “The most important thing about this transition is I’m going to be able to reach more people. I can create a platform where I can inspire, reach out and help and encourage. Being a pro athlete gives me a lot of opportunities.”

After winning four golds at the 2012 London Olympics, Franklin left millions of dollars on the table and announced she would swim for two years at Cal. She closed out her career by winning NCAA titles in the 200-yard individual medley, 200 backstroke and 200 freestyle last weekend in North Carolina. She swam on the winning 800 free relay and the second-place 400 free relay while helping the Cal Golden Bears win the NCAA championship.