Cal freshman Missy Franklin became the youngest winner of the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, announced Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Franklin, 18, received the award four days after helping the Golden Bears finish third at the NCAA championships in Minneapolis. Tennis star Serena Williams previously was the youngest winner when being honored in 2003 at age 21.

"Being here is more than an honor," Franklin said in accepting the award. "It is my first time here in Kuala Lumpur and I don't think I've ever been so sincerely welcomed into a country before. I see smiles wherever I go and everyone is so generous."

Missy Franklin smiles as she talks about the Santa Clara Arena Grand Prix at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara, Calif. on
Missy Franklin smiles as she talks about the Santa Clara Arena Grand Prix at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday, June 2, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

Franklin was honored for becoming the first woman to win six gold medals at a swimming world championships. The Berkeley athlete accomplished the feat at the 2013 championships in Barcelona by winning three individual titles and three relay races.

"In 2012, one of my biggest dreams came true," Franklin said of competing at the London Games. "It was great to create that experience and then create new dreams and set new limits and new goals for myself. What I loved about 2013 was that there really was no pressure. It was a year for me to get out there and see what else I could do after London."

Germany's Sebastian Vettel, the Formula One world champion, was named sportsman of the year while German soccer club Bayern Munich won the team award.

Franklin was over Germany's Nadine Angerer, soccer player of the year, track stars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, alpine skier Tina Maze of Slovenia and Williams. The Laureus Awards are picked by a panel of 46 international sports stars.

Franklin plans to compete for Cal next year, then become a professional two years ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"I definitely enjoyed the World Championships and accomplished new goals there," Franklin added. "I was happy with my swims overall, but I definitely think there's still so much there."

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/elliottalmond.