The Evolution Of Michael Phelps: From Swimming Superstar To Doting Dad

It is hard to believe that Michael Phelps, the United States’ most highly decorated swimmer, has only been swimming with the United States Olympic Swim Team for around the last 17 years. Now 32, Phelps has medals from Athens, Beijing, London, and Rio, and with 28 Olympic medals to his credit, he has become the United States’ most winning Olympian. He has come a long way since those beginnings when he was a lanky 15 year old just starting out in the world of competitive swimming; with the announcement that he’s expecting baby number two with wife Nicole Johnson, Phelps’ evolution only seems to be continuing.

Shy Swimmer Breaks Through

Reportedly, per Biography, Phelps was a bit reluctant to put his head under water when he first started swimming after his older sisters joined a local swim team. The teacher suggested he start floating around on his back, and soon after, Phelps was extremely comfortable with the backstroke. Soon after, at 15, he earned a spot on the US Olympic B Team for swimming, becoming the youngest person to do so. He ended up notching fifth in the Sydney Olympic Games, but that would only be the beginning.

A Push For Olympic – And Global – Dominance

Michael Phelps Evolution

According to ESPN, Phelps then went on to break several world records on his way to winning 26 long course titles, and in some cases, becoming the youngest person to do so. His Team USA timeline states that in 2001, a banner year for the swimmer, Phelps broke the world record in the 200m fly in Austin, Texas, broke his own record in Japan for the same event four months later, and by October, had decided to turn professional and signed his first endorsement deal. Not bad for a kid who hadn’t even graduated high school at that point – that milestone wouldn’t come until 2003.

The path to Olympic glory, however, can sometimes be fraught with missteps, and Phelps was no exception to this. After winning six gold medals and two bronze at the Athens Games, Phelps was charged with DUI, and Independent states that he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving while impaired and was given 18 months probation, during which time he had to speak with students about the dangers of drinking and driving. He was 19 at the time, but remained the shining star of the US Olympic Swim Team.

“The Great Haul Of China” And Suspension

By the Beijing Games of 2008, Phelps was ready once more to take on the world, and broke 1972 swimming star Mark Spitz’s record with eight gold medals to his credit at that Games. However, about a year later, when Phelps was just 23, a photograph of Phelps smoking from a marijuana pipe was splashed all over the front page of News Of The World in an incident that led to a three-month suspension from USA Swimming for Phelps.

At the time, Phelps expressed his remorse for what he termed “youthful” behavior and acknowledged that the behavior shown in the image was inconsistent with what people had come to expect of him.

“I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me,” he said.

In addition to the suspension, the incident cost Phelps at least one endorsement deal, as Kelloggs declined to renew their endorsement contract with the superstar swimmer.

Love And Redemption

While Phelps had claimed the 2012 London Games would be his last and he did, indeed, have an impressive showing there, claiming four golds and two silvers, he had another career misstep with a 2014 DUI charge. This led to a rehab stay and a six-month suspension from USA Swimming.

Michael Phelps Evolution

However, there is something to be said for love and redemption, and Phelps found both in fairly short order. While he’d been dating Nicole Johnson – aka Miss California 2010 – on and off since 2007, the couple decided to solidify their relationship in 2015 with an engagement and shortly after that, a child. Boomer Phelps, their first child, was born in May 2016, a few short months before Michael Phelps headed to Rio for another record-breaking – and reportedly final – run at Olympic glory.

It seems that Phelps also took the time to get married before Rio, as well; he and Johnson tied the knot just a month after Boomer was born, in June 2016. Whether that was to fully focus on the upcoming Rio Games, one cannot be certain, but it would seem that since becoming a father and husband, Phelps has gained focus and stability in what has been a personal life fraught with ups and downs.

Baby No. 2 And Coaching?

While Michael Phelps has much to anticipate with the arrival of his second child with Nicole Johnson, there continues to be some buzz about what’s next on Phelps’ already-full schedule. He’s just come off the highs of Shark Week, though the “race” between him and a shark was more criticized than lauded, and according to Swimming World, spent the 2016-2017 season as assistant coach to Bob Bowman, the man who coached him, at Arizona State University. With a bright-eyed toddler who appears to be eagerly anticipating the arrival of a little brother or sister, it would appear that regardless of Phelps’ involvement in swimming, parenting is where his focus is.

[Featured Image by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Huggies]