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Colorado Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Missy Franklin turning pro

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NEW YORK -- Missy Franklin, the Colorado swimmer who vaulted onto the national spotlight at the 2012 Olympics in London, announced Monday she will leave the University of California after two years and turn pro, 16 months ahead of the Olympics in Brazil.

Franklin, who graduated from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora in 2013 and whose parents live in Centennial, won four gold medals at the 2012 Games and held off turning pro because she wanted to experience college life. On Saturday, the sophomore helped the Golden Bears win the NCAA championship with three individual wins.

"It's so unreal," Franklin said on "Today." "We made this decision coming out of London. I really wanted to get that team experience in college, and I figured if I could get two years and then go professional and have a year going into the Olympic trials for Rio to really kind of set that platform for myself, and that I think would be the best thing for me, and now it's happening."

Franklin signed with WME-IMG out of Beverly Hills, Calif., and will be represented by Mark Ervin. WME-IMG also represents skier Lindsey Vonn of Vail.

"I think what WME and IMG have built across the last year is really dynamic and I feel like it's the right fit for me as I turn professional," Franklin said in a news release. "My focus in the pool is going to be pushing myself day in and day out to be my best self and achieve my goals, and I know that my new team at WME | IMG will help me use the platform I have been given to make a difference."

Franklin will compete in World Cup and Grand Prix meets before the World Swimming Championships in Russia in August.

Franklin, a psychology major, will still pursue a degree from Cal but will lighten her class load as she gears up for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in July 2016.

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