Sports enthusiasts know that when it comes to Olympic greatness, Michael Phelps holds the crown. In London alone Phelps dominated his opponents to bring home four gold and two silver medals, which made the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 total medals. If that isn’t bragging rights, I’m not sure what is.
But before Olympic fame and glory there was education, which is an important thing to remember for young athletes aspiring to walk in Phelps’ footsteps. And even though Phelps never pursued a formal degree, he did still see value in taking classes and coupling athletics with academics as an intentional career move.
Phelps, who was born and raised in Towson, Maryland, attended Towson High School where he graduated in 2003. While he started swimming at the ripe age of seven, it wasn’t until later that he realized his true talent. A series of swim clubs and competitions led to his qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics at age 15, at which point he became the youngest male athlete to make a US Olympic team in 68 years. And even though he didn’t win any medals, his next three Olympic appearances would more than make up for it.
Phelps’ primary swim coach was Bob Bowman, who swam for Florida State University from 1983 to 1985. When Bowman became head swim coach at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Phelps enrolled and began taking classes while training under Bowman. And although he began studying sports marketing and management, he did not pursue a formal degree. Phelps also served as a volunteer assistant coach during the time, though he did not compete for the team as he’d already turned professional and accepted a Speedo endorsement in 2001.
In addition to furthering his education while achieving perhaps the most impressive swimming career in history, Phelps also found ways to give back.
In 2008 after the Beijing Olympics, Phelps used a $1 million Speedo endorsement bonus to found the Michael Phelps Foundation, which seeks to grow the sport of swimming while promoting healthy lifestyles. Two years later, the foundation, along with the Michael Phelps Swim School and KidsHealth.org, created the ‘im’ program for Boys & Girls Club members to promote healthy active lives among children through the practice of swimming.
After achieving Olympic glory and setting multiple world records in the process, Phelps is staying true to his word and has officially retired from swimming professionally. And despite his young age and impressive career trajectory, he does not intend to compete in the 2016 Olympics by personal choice. As for future plans, who knows what the mega athlete will do? It’s been rumored that he hopes to get more involved with his charities, and maybe he’ll go back to college to pursue a degree once and for all. But whatever he does, we can only speculate that whatever Phelps touches will turn to gold.
photo via NBC