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5 people who have shaped Michael Phelps' life

Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever
Saksham Garg

Michael Phelps has left the world befuddled with all that he’s achieved. This includes journalists tasked with writing about his career as they shuffle through thoughts to aptly describe the career that the man had made for himself, but fail to encapsulate its grand illustriousness.

Nonetheless, many forces play a vital role in molding a man capable enough to break all records and establish himself as the best Olympian of all time and by extension, the best sportsman ever. Only a perfectly measured dose of love, guidance, competition, hardwork and ambition has what it takes to make a sportsperson as great as Phelps.

This Olympics, Phelps won his 23rd gold before retiring for good- so he says. It was only four years ago when he made a similar decision and seemed certain about it at the time. When he turned back his decision in 2014 to get back to the pool, the world rejoiced at his comeback - obviously with the exception of his direct rivals.

The Olympian came back with a bang and was the flag bearer for the United States squad for the Olympics.

The swimmer faced no dearth of support from family in any of his race. His 3-month-old baby son Boomer slept while his mother Debbie, his fiancé Nicole and his coach Bob cheered him on from the friends and family stand.

A strong and supportive family can make all the difference from a winner to an underachiever, and no one buttresses this claim more than America’s most loved family, the Phelps. The entire family (including coach Bob Bowman) has proved to be instrumental in shaping the legendary career of the swimmer.


Bob Bowman (coach)

Bob Bowman filled the void of a male influence in Phelps’ life

Bob Bowman’s book, “The Golden Rules,” describes this one particular incident. It was August 1997 and Bob Bowman called Michael Phelps’ parents into the NBAC office. He needed to talk to them about an important decision they needed to make. Bowman told them that Phelps had it in him to make it to the Olympics team for 2000.

“You’re crazy, Bowman,” said Debbie Phelps, Michael’s mother. She was indeed right. The old man was crazy. He underestimated Phelps.

A pre-pubescent Phelps found male guidance and influence in Bob when his relationship with his father, Fred, was ebbing. Together they dreamed, and dreamed big they did. Who knew it would take a man striving for the depths of water and not shooting for the stars to make the most decorated Olympian ever? Bob had an idea and a plan, and Phelps had what it took to materialize it.

After getting Mr. and Mrs. Phelps’ approval, Bob guided Phelps into a routine that solely circled around swimming. The changes came in the form of daily morning and afternoon practice sessions and changing to a school that supported Phelps’ ambitions. So, they started training regularly and the rest, as they say, is history.

It is said that the partnership they’ve formed is the greatest American coach-athlete partnership. Maybe it is, but it sure has had its tests.

After all, Phelps was a young star with the world at his pleasure. There were times when Phelps left coach Bowman stranded alone for practice sessions. Sometimes, he showed up hung-over. These obstacles only help shape and strengthen this beautiful relationship.

Fred Phelps (father)

Fred Phelps split with Debbie Phelps when Michael was 9 years old

On Thursday night last week when Michael Phelps added a 22nd Gold medal to his scintillating wall of fame, Google, the search engine, was buzzing as usual with one perceptible aberration. One of the trending topics searched was Fred Phelps, the Olympian’s father.

Phelps’ mother Debbie and coach Bob can be easily spotted on the pool touchlines- if you will, cheering on the Olympian who can probably only hear them for short intervals whenever he ephemerally sneaks out of water for a gasp of air. Michael’s privileged to have a happy, loving relationship with his mother.

What drives spectators crazy is wondering where Fred Phelps is and why he isn’t jumping up and down cheering on his son?

“Is my family perfect? Far from it. My parents had issues where they thought it was healthy to split. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t easy. But what we went through as kids made us as strong as we are. And now my father and I communicate. It’s not fixed. You don’t fix something like that. But it’s better,” Michael said.

The answer: Michael has had a complicated relationship with his father after his parents broke up when Michael was just 9. The divorce saw the responsibilities for raising Michael fall on his mother and his two sisters, who evidently couldn’t have done a better job.

Fred Phelps and son Michael remained in contact for a couple years until the swimmer’s career drove him apart from his father. This, needless to say, did not create a schism of any male influence as he always had love and guidance from his coaches, especially Bob Bowman.

“For me, not having a father always there was hard. I had Bob [Bowman], and I had Peter [Carlisle], these guys who acted as father figures,” Michael Phelps said “But deep down, inside, it was hard. That was something that was a struggle for me to talk about for a long time, even with friends or my mother. Getting that off my chest in therapy was this huge weight off my shoulders.”

Nicole Johnson (fiancé)

Nicole recently announced that she’ll tie the knot with Michael by the end of this year

Meet Nicole Johnson, fiancé of Michael Phelps. Nicole recently announced that they will be reading vows as soon as later this year. A picture of Nicole, a former beauty pageant champion and Miss California 2010, features her in an underwater photo shoot when she was pregnant with now Instagram sensation and one of America’s most loved infants, Boomer Phelps.

We’ll get to Boomer later but Nicole herself is not only famous for dating Poseidon personified himself, but she’s also a bit of an over-achiever herself.

Having done her master’s degree in Communications with specialization in Sports and Entertainment from the University of Southern California, Nicole raised no eyebrows when she started being spotted with the swimming God.

She then went on to work for big companies until she recently took over Michael Phelps’ foundation and started focusing on expanding Phelps’ swim products.

Nicole and Michael’s journey to the altar is one with many ups and downs. They started dating in 2007, broke off in 2011 and were back together in 2014. They’ve matured over the years and Michael believes that it has helped both of them grow as individuals and as a couple.

“I said to a couple of my friends if I ever had the chance to get her back, that would be it. She was the one I loved the most.” Phelps said. “Her and I have been on and off for eight years. It’s been a long time. We’ve been through a lot. But I love her to death.

“We’ve been able to grow as a couple through everything we’ve been through, the positive changes I’ve made in my life.”

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe had 9 medals to his name in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics

“You couldn’t cross the street, it seemed, without seeing Ian’s face on a billboard, couldn’t watch television without seeing Ian in a commercial.” Phelps subtly reveals in his 2008 book No Limits: The Will to Succeed that he had an obsession with the Australian swimmer star when he was young.

Before Phelps could even think to be the greatest Olympian, he had to beat the best swimmer on the planet first. Every great hero needs a good antagonist. While Ian Thorpe is no villain, he sure was the perfect counterpart to Phelps’ who helped him to achieve his best.

Ian Thrope of Austrailia was the biggest thing in swimming before the American came splashing.

Having won 5 gold medals and a total of 9 medals in 2000 and 2004 Olympics himself; Thorpe said 7 gold medal victories in one Olympics was beyond anyone’s reach. This was in 2004 and Phelps took the Australian’s comments to his heart. These words, it’s said, were written on a note and cleanly stuck on the inside of his locker by Phelps to use as a benchmark.

Come 2008, Thorpe had to eat his words and followed it up with a diplomatic comment.

"I said that I didn't think he will, I never said he wouldn't", clarified Thorpe. "I just couldn't envisage it happening. And I didn't think he would get all eight, not because Michael couldn't win, but because of the competition.”

Boomer Phelps (son)

Michael’s son Boomer holds up his imaginary gold medal

The age of Instagram has been a boon both to all the stalkers out there and to those looking to closely follow their heroes and idols. Boomer Phelps’ Instagram page caters to none of them but it sure shows to the entire world how much Boomer means to his father, Michael.

The world has been wondering what Michael Phelps, the overachiever, plans to pursue now that he’s retired from swimming. Phelps very openly answered all these questions when he announced that the primary focus of his life would be to spend time with family, primarily his son Boomer.

The affectionate father that he is, Michael claims, “I picked him up after I was done and just held him, that’s something I’m really, really looking forward to, just watching him grow up.” Phelps foresees himself being a full-time dad as he states, “I don’t want to miss a thing.”

Boomer Phelps’ Instagram page is adorable and here’s why. The page has beautifully clicked shots of the photogenic baby and to top it off, captions written in first person from his perspective. Now, he’s not a child prodigy that we know of yet. It’s Nicole and Michael that take turns to put captions on his page, duh!

Boomer’s clothes stick out too, once dressed in a shirt with an Olympic gold medal printed on it and often in attire supporting his father, Boomer is the best cheerleader Michael Phelps could hope for.

On a goodbye note to his fans and the media, he said, “You guys won’t see me at one of these things for a long time.”

Adieu, Champ.

Edited by Staff Editor

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