August 21, 2013

Michael Phelps visits Maine, swimming still his game

The U.S. Olympian and legendary swimmer promotes a business and youth wellness in Saco.

By Glenn Jordan
Staff Writer

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After winning the most golds ever by an Olympian, Michael Phelps is now part of the Michael Phelps Skill Center, a pilot program designed to augment his swim school in Baltimore and his five-part IM program, which is run in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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Michael Phelps talks Tuesday with local swim coaches after a demonstration of the training equipment he’s helped to develop at the Michael Phelps Skill Center in Saco.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


2000: At 15, youngest male swimmer on U.S. Olympic team in Sydney. Places fifth in 200-meter butterfly.

2001: Becomes youngest male to set a world record, in the 200 fly, at 15 years, 11 months.

2003: Set world records in different events on the same day at world championships in Barcelona

2004: Wins six gold medals and two bronze at Athens Games.

2008: Sets seven world records and wins eight gold medals at Beijing Games.

2012: Wins four golds and two silvers at London Games, completing medal haul at 18 gold and 22 overall -- four more than any other athlete in any sport.

He answered questions, posed for photos and signed autographs for both groups.

The kids wanted to know how long he could hold his breath (about two minutes), his height (6-foot-4) and when he learned to swim (at age 7, and he didn't want to put his face underwater or venture into the deep end). He told them about his Monday ocean dip. "It was so cold," he said. "My whole body was numb when I got out."

The coaches wanted to know more about his training, his future, and if he still swims.

"I'm a very visual learner," said Phelps, who peeled off his clothes, put on a suit, and gave a demonstration of the spa. He said a similar model helped him regain a feel for the freestyle stroke between the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.

"When I was able to see what I was doing right or wrong with my hands and how my elbows were, it allowed me to break it down easier," he said. "It was very quick and very easy for me to be able to get back to the freestyle that I knew how to swim that was giving me success."

Rob Hale, the Greely High swim coach, asked if Phelps might consider coaching now that his competitive days are done.

"After seeing everything that I put my coach through, I really can't see myself being put through that by some other kid," Phelps said. "I know how brutal I was to Bob."

Kerry Chamberlain, who coaches at Massabesic High, already knew about the benefits of the Skill Center. Her son, Collin, a rising senior, has been a regular since it opened in the spring.

"To be able to isolate that swimmer and what they're doing in the water, and to be able to make those corrections one-on-one at the time it's happening, is just an incredible opportunity," Chamberlain said.

Carlisle said he thinks the center may see its biggest draw come from the triathlon community. Organizers concerned about first-time triathletes making open-water swims in cold, choppy, crowded conditions could send them to a facility capable of simulating such an atmosphere.

He also envisions such spas -- which run somewhere between $15,000 to $35,000 -- as an option for municipalities, swim clubs or schools that don't have funding for a pool. First, however, he'd like to see every Boys & Girls Club in the country embrace the IM program.

"One of the first things I said to Peter was, 'Let's change the sport of swimming and take it to another level,"' Phelps said.

But why here? Why Maine?

"This is where Peter started everything and Peter and I have been working together for a long time and we've been able to do a lot," he said. "I think it's a great starting point and we'll see where we can go from here."

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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