Phelps Hopes to Change Face of Swimming

The swimming has ended at the Water Cube in Beijing, but Michael Phelps' reign as a sports icon is just beginning.

Phelps made history by matching Mark Spitz's seven golds -- a feat previously achieved only once in the 112-year history of the modern Olympic Games -- and earning a $1 million bonus from Speedo for doing it.

Several other multimillion dollar endorsement deals are sure to follow.

Phelps may have achieved his dreams of gold while winning over the hearts of sports fans all across the globe, but he also has bigger plans for his sport.

In one of his first post-race interviews, Phelps told ESPN, "I want to change the sport of swimming. I look up to Michael Jordan and what he did in the sport of basketball, how he completely changed it. This sport has changed my life in so many ways, and I just want other people to be able to be part of that."

Michael Phelps

Of his new hardware, Phelps wore them proudly.

"I put them all on this morning, and it looked pretty cool. They looked pretty cool on. It was a pretty neat feeling," said Phelps.

Phelps won six golds in Athens four years ago, bringing his current career golds to a whopping 14. As if winning gold medals wasn't impressive enough, Phelps broke the world record in seven of the eight events he swam in Beijing, four of which he previously held.

Two Close Calls

In some of the most exciting races of the Summer Games, and arguably in swimming history, twice it seemed as if Phelps' quest could come up short.

First in the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay when his teammate, the U.S. tri-captain and oldest member of the swimming crew, Jason Lezak, was losing to France's Alain Bernard in the anchor leg.

Lezak beat Bernard in the last meter by eight-hundredths of a second -- the closest finish in the event's history. Lezak's finish, and fastest split in history, was up there with New York Giant's David Tyree's Super Bowl catch earlier this year as one of the most heroic moments in sports history.

The second nail-biter of a close call was Phelps' 100-meter butterfly. Phelps gave everyone a scare when after hitting the wall seventh at the 50-meter mark and still trailing Milorad Cavic of Serbia with five meters left in the race, he didn't seem as if he was going to catch his rival.

In the closest race a swimmer can achieve, Phelps beat Cavic by one-hundredth of a second with a quick half-stroke.

The Serbians immediately filed a written protest to challenge the finish, but according to Cavic's Web site, he "had nothing to do with this filing," rather it was his Serbian Olympics committee and swimming staff who questioned the outcome. Cavic says he is "completely happy," and "there's nothing wrong with losing to the greatest swimmer there has ever been."

Rowdy Gaines, former three-time Olympic gold medalist and NBC commentator at this year's Olympics, screamed in awe following Phelps' butterfly finish. "He gets it done again! He gets it done again!"

Even Phelps' mom had two fingers held up because she believed her son finished second. When she looked at the scoreboard with her daughter seated beside her and realized he'd won, a look of disbelief and nausea seemed to overcome her, so she took her seat.

Phelps' teammate and the world record holder in the 100-meter butterfly, Ian Crocker, had a few words for his teammate following the race.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...