Olympic hero Phelps says he was scared of water as a kid
Mumbai, Jan 17 : He may have been the greatest swimmer ever whose exploits in the pool include smashing almost all world records, but as a kid, Michael Phelps dreaded the water.
“I was somebody who was afraid to face the water as a kid, I guess I overcame that fear pretty fast,” Phelps, the greatest Olympic athlete, said at an event organised by private equity fund Truenorth here late Wednesday.
Phelps, who has had 23 Olympic golds, including the record-making haul of eight at Beijing in 2008, said many children are like him, who are afraid of water, and that a non-profit initiative started by him a decade ago has so far taught 30,000 children about swimming.
Speaking about the 2008 games, Phelps said he was programmed to be just perfect during the eight days of pool competitions, which included a strong focus on exactly how much he drinks, swims, eats and sleeps.
Phelps recounted he had only 70 minutes between two competitions the 200-metre freestyle and anchoring the US team to a victory in the 800-metre relay – and had to manage a cool-down and a 400-metre warm up for the next event after squeezing-in time for medal presentation for the first event.
“I just ran around the venue and made it in time for the start of the next race,” he said.
He rewarded himself with a break a life first when he had taken time off after the 2008 games but contractual commitments with sponsors made him return to competitive swimming.
Phelps admitted that he was “faking it”, not giving his best and underlined that the results are there to see for everyone – he won four golds at the London 2012 games.
Fall from sporting glory and some family issues led him into depression after the 2012 games, which included flirting with suicidal thoughts as the purpose of living became difficult to find. A month of mental detox at a training centre later, he was back to water.
“I was able to just look at myself as a human being. I think that was the first time I had been really able to do that. For so long, I thought of myself as a swimmer. I didn’t look at myself as a person,” he revealed, adding that for the first time, he was “vulnerable”.
Having fought the demons, Phelps focused on the next big task, the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, where he ultimately hauled five gold medals.