A fresh young thriller

Aug. 14, 2004, midnight | By Seema Kacker | 16 years, 10 months ago

Maryland teen to make splash in Olympic spotlight

This article has been compiled from various sources including The Washington Post August 8 article "The Michael Phelps Show: Baltimore Swimmer is Focus of Games" and the NBC online Olympics athlete biography webpage, which can be viewed here.

The hottest new phenom at the Olympic games this summer hits close to home for many of us. Michael Phelps, the 19-year-old sensation from Baltimore County, is not like the other star athletes or celebrities.

He doesn't attend the formal galas or black-tie events or strut through the city streets surrounded by a security detail. Instead, in his free time, Phelps can generally be found hanging around his mother's house, listening to the beats of Eminem or DMX on his hip new iPod while he fools around with his Cadillac. Not so typically, however, Phelps is also hailed as one of the world's greatest all-around swimmers.

In Athens, Phelps will be attempting to make history by winning eight gold medals. The current record is held by Mark Spitz, now 54, who won seven Olympic titles in 1972. By tying or breaking Spitz's accomplishment, Phelps would earn even more praise and an additional 1 million dollars from his sponsor, Speedo. The teen has already set a record as the first American to qualify for six Olympic events, and plans on competing in five individual events (200m and 400m individual medleys, 100m and 200m butterfly, and 200m freestyle) in addition to a possible three relays.

This packed schedule may cause Phelps to compete twenty times in eight days. "One of the biggest things is going to be having one race after another after another, back to back to back," Phelps said to The Washington Post. "I'm going to have to be both physically and mentally ready for that...I'm going to take one event at a time and hope for the best."

First entering the Olympic scene as a 15-year-old, Phelps made waves as the youngest competitor on the American team in 68 years. Since then, he has broken several long-standing records. At the 2000 Olympic games, he placed 5th in the 200m butterfly. The following year at the Spring Nationals, he became the youngest male to set a world record, earning recognition in the 200m butterfly, and the 200m and 400m individual medleys. At the World Championships in 2003, he continued the streak to set five records in a single meet and earned four gold and two silver medals. This rapid sequence of accomplishments earned Phelps the 2003 Sullivan award, given each year to the top US amateur athlete.

In a sports scene tainted with allegations of mass illegal drug use, greed and sex scandals Phelps is a breath of fresh air. His youthful spirit forces the audience to focus on the raw thrill of his sporting event in a divided world, and in particular, a divided nation. With political and moral conflict, split social classes and clashes over foreign interactions, Olympic participants like Phelps can be uniting forces for America. "Not everybody in this world loves America," he said to The Washington Post. "But we have a pride and when we step up on the block and have the red, white and blue on, that's all that matters. . . We're going to go out and compete at our best, and if we do that I think we'll all be happy."

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Seema Kacker. Seema is a senior in the magnet this year, and is thrilled to be a part of the Online senior staff. She also plays tennis. More »

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