After his loss to le Clos, Phelps found solace in the relay, turning and firing off the wall that last 50 meters, heading for home. And history.
Debbie Phelps had what she calls a “D.P. moment” then, tears streaming down her cheeks. Surrounding her were grown daughters Hilary and Whitney; all of Michael’s closest friends, from elementary school through the University of Michigan; his 6-year-old niece, Taylor, the little girl who was so proud of her first basketball award she had to show Michael.
“He was doing an Anderson Cooper interview and photo shoot,” Hilary said, “and he had all his medals out [around his neck], and Taylor came in and said, ‘Uncle Michael, look at my medal.’ She was so proud, turning it in the light and everything. And Michael turned around and said, ‘Hey Taylor, look at mine.’ ”
“He’s been doing this for 12 years. We’re so happy for him.”
The training got old, the monotony of the black line at the bottom of the pool — the things that helped him focus and deal with his diagnosis of ADHD became rote, tired. Lochte was going to be the new king. Even a teammate, Tyler Clary, gave him grief about his work ethic leading up to London. But Phelps found a way to remain contemporary, still be great even as his body incrementally retreated.
When Phelps’s contributions to swimming are totaled, those 19 medals amount to untold millions, ala Tiger Woods’s impact on golf. The sport that used to have Philips 66 as its main sponsor now lures the world’s largest corporations. I still remember Cindy Crawford walking out with a 19-year-old Phelps in Long Beach, Calif., before Athens, hawking designer watches, thinking, “This kid’s talent brought her out here to be part of this.”
That Baltimore teen became the greatest Olympic champion Tuesday night in London, still finding his mother in the stands like he did when he was 7.
“Simple words, but direct from the heart,” Debbie said, crying again, explaining why she told her son she loves him and she’s proud of him. Michael Phelps’s mom paused and wiped her eyes. “You never know what your children are going to grow up to become.”