Guest Author - Carol Taller
On August 17, 2008, swimmer Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. His goal was to beat U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz, who had scored seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.
Phelps won three relays at the Beijing games, as well as five individual races. He set seven world records and one Olympic record, and he performed his personal best times for each race.
Four years prior to this event, Phelps had won six Olympic gold medals and two bronze medals in Athens. His Olympic medal total is second only to Larisa Latynina, who had won a total of eighteen medals over the course of three Olympics.
Michael Fred Phelps was born in Towson, Maryland. He began swimming when he was six as an outlet for his abounding energy. In the 6th grade he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the swimming seemed to help.
By the age of 10, Phelps had already achieved a national record in his age group. He qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics by the age of 15 and became the youngest male to make a U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years.
Certain physical attributes have helped Phelps during his phenomenal swimming career. The question has been asked if his feet “are too good to be true.” His extremely large feet assist in propelling him faster through the water.
This comment about his feet insinuated that they were larger due to performance-enhancing drugs. Wisely, Phelps signed up for Project Believe, set up by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and allowed himself to be tested for drugs a total of nine times during the Olympics. He passed each drug test.
In 2004 Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, Maryland. He was granted eighteen months probation, given a $250 fine, and obligated to speak to high school students about the risks of drinking and driving. He called this an isolated incident and acknowledged letting a lot of people down.
Five years later a photo appeared in a British journal showing him using a bong, a device used to smoke tobacco or marijuana. He was not prosecuted for this incident on the grounds of not enough evidence. Kellogg, however, did not renew his endorsement contract and USA Swimming suspended him from swimming competitively for three months.
After winning the 2008 Olympics, Phelps set up the Michael Phelps Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to promote healthier lifestyles focusing on the growth of swimming.