How Did Michael Phelps Get Started?

by Cassandra Gailis

Michael Phelps is a well-known Olympic swimmer. He won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, simultaneously setting new world swim records. Michael has the perfect physique for a swimmer, with long limbs and large hands and feet. However, it was his hard work, determination and love of competitive swimming that really helped propel Michael Phelps to Olympic greatness.


Born on June 30, 1985, Michael Phelps grew up in a family of three children in the town of Towson, near Baltimore, Maryland. Michael had two older sisters, Hilary and Whitney, both of whom were considered strong swimmers. As a child, his stroller would be parked by the pool so he could watch his sisters practice. All three Phelps children swam from an early age at a local swim club. At the age of 7, Michael was afraid to place his face in the water, so the instructors allowed him to first feel secure by floating on his back. As a result, Michael ended up learning the backstroke first.

School Struggles

Beginning in kindergarten, Michael had a difficult time focusing on his work at school. Although he greatly enjoyed gym and science, teachers noted Michael's inability to sit still and be quiet. By the age of 9, he had been diagnosed with ADHD. In the swimming pool, however, Michael focused well and continued to impress others with his superior skills at the local Towson Loyola High School pool.


When Michael reached the age of 11, he began training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center. His swim coach, Bob Bowman, saw Olympic potential in the young athlete. Coach Bowman believed that Michael needed to step up his training regime and informed the Phelps family that Michael had a true gift. With that in mind, Michael gave up additional sports he enjoyed, such as soccer and baseball, in order to solely focus on his swimming. Michael had no problem adapting to a more rigorous training regime, as he enjoyed competition and the hard work required to develop his skills.


By the time Michael was 12, his regime included a 90-minute swimming session before school, followed by 2 to 3 hours of swim practice afterward. Michael was extremely focused and determined on perfecting his swimming skills. Not only did he vigorously practice in the pool, he also studied videotapes of his past races in order to correct his mistakes. Michael would insist on watching his past performances even while eating dinner, in order to utilize the time to study and improve his technique. The hard work paid off, as Michael set his first world record at the age of 16 and won numerous Olympic medals by the time he was 19.

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