Michael Phelps Biography (1985-)

Michael Phelps. Born Michael Fred Phelps on June 30, 1985, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Fred and Debbie Phelps. The youngest of three children, Michael and his sisters grew up in the neighborhood of Rodgers Forge. Fred, an all-around , was a state trooper. Debbie was a middle-school principal. When Michael’s parents divorced in 1994, the kids went to live with Debbie, and Michael grew very close to his mother.

Phelps began swimming when his two older sisters, Whitney (born 1978) and Hilary (born 1980), joined a local swim team. Whitney tried out for the U.S. Olympic team in 1996 at the age of 15, but injuries derailed her career. At age seven, Phelps was still “a little scared” to put his head underwater, so his instructors allowed him to float around on his back. Not surprisingly, the first stroke he mastered was the backstroke.

After he saw swimmers Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Michael started to dream of becoming a champion himself. He launched his swimming career at Loyola High School pool. Phelps then met his coach, Bob Bowman, when he started training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center. The coach immediately recognized Michael’s talents and fierce sense of competition and began an intense training regime together. By 1999, Phelps had made the U.S. National B Team.

At the age of 15, Phelps became the youngest American male at an in 68 years. While he didn’t win a medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, he would soon become a major force in competitive swimming.

During the spring of 2001, Phelps set the world record in the 200-meter butterfly, becoming the youngest male swimmer in history (at 15 years and 9 months) to ever set a swimming world record. He then broke his own record during the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, with a time of 1:54:58, earning his first international medal. Phelps continued to set new marks at the 2002 U.S. Summer Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, establishing a new world record for the 400-meter individual medley and U.S. records in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley. The following year at the same event, he broke his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:09.09.

Shortly after graduating from Towson in 2003, the 17-year-old Phelps set five world records, including the 200-meter individual medley at the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, with a time of 1:56:04. Then during the U.S. trials for the 2004 Summer Olympics, he broke his own world again in the 400 meter individual medley when he was clocked at 4:08:41.

Phelps became a superstar at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, winning eight medals (including six gold), which tied with Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin (1980) for the most medals in a single Olympic Games. Phelps scored the first of six gold medals on August 14 when he broke his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley, shaving 0.15 seconds of his previous mark. He also won gold in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, 4×200-meter freestyle relay and 4×100-meter medley relay). The two events in Athens, in which Phelps took bronze medals, were 200-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Just weeks following his triumph in Athens, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, Maryland, after cruising through a stop sign. He plead guilty to driving while impaired, and was sentenced to 18 months probation, fined $250, and had to speak against drinking and driving to high school students and attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving meeting. Michael called it an “isolated incident,” but admitted letting himself and his family down.

Phelps soon followed coaach Bowman to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, studying sports marketing and management. Bowman coached the Wolverines’ swim-team and guided Club Wolverine, the club Phelps swims for.

Phelps continued to establish world records at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, British Columbia, and the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Phelps won gold in the 4-by-100-meter individual relay, 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly, 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter butterfly. Every gold medal performance set a new world record, except the 100-meter butterfly, which set an Olympic record. Phelps also set the all-time single Olympics gold-medal record, surpassing swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds. This was Phelps’ 14th career gold medal, the most won by any Olympian.

In addition to his successful swim career, Phelps has written two books. His second book, No Limits: The Will to Succeed, hit bookstores on December 9, 2008. He also co-founded the nonprofit organization, Swim with the Stars. The program holds camps for swimmers of all ages.

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