'No Vacation' When You're Michael Phelps's Mom

Debbie Phelps talks about the challenges and joys of raising a champion.

ByABC News
February 18, 2009, 5:14 PM

BEIJING, Aug 11, 2008 — -- It was a nail-biting Olympic moment at the Water Cube today. Fans were on pins and needles as American swimmer Michael Phelps and his teammates trailed the French in the 4 x 100 meter men's relay.

Just when fans thought Phelps's hope for a record-breaking eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics was about to slip away, American teammate Jason Lezak surged forward and hustled alongside his French rival in the final leg of the relay.

Lezak stretched out his arm to out-touch his French counterpart by merely eight hundredths of a second. Phelps's teammate had just helped him secure his second gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, winning a gold for themselves too. Phelps's quest for the magic eight would continue.

In a one-on-one post-race interview with ABC News, Debbie Phelps explained what it was like being the mother and No. 1 fan of Michael Phelps, one of the most celebrated athletes competing in the Beijing Olympics.

Sitting in the stands this morning at the 4 x 100 meter men's relay, Phelps sat in nervous anticipation as she watched her son and his teammates win the gold.

"Watching that relay and oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," Phelps said. "That was nerve-racking."

"My heart's pounding, my stomach is starting to do flip flops, but I'm trying to be very composed on the outside. I hope it comes across that way," laughed Phelps. "It's no vacation for me."

Phelps doesn't think she is any different than other parents of Olympians. "Any parent who says it is easy to watch [their child compete], I would question that. ... We are a nervous wreck."

What did the Olympic champion's mom say to her son after the dramatic win this morning?

"I love him, I'm so proud of you," she said. But usually her greetings aren't delivered over the phone.

"Really, it's texting. He always reaches out to us. Sometimes he calls. ... We're lucky if we get a call."

But today's victory in Beijing was extra special. Debbie Phelps and her daughters were seated close enough to grab some quick hugs and kisses from their Olympic champion. Michael gave his winner's bouquet of flowers to his mom, a woman who has been his champion his entire life.