Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, and his coach, Bob Bowman

interviewed by Rowdy Gaines, Olympic swimming analyst

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Session recap

Becoming Michael Phelps

Dedication, focus and goals are, of course, an understatement. What really got Michael Phelps going at any early age was, well, to become the first Michael Phelps. He fell in love with swimming as a kid who was dropped off by his mother at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club for water safety lessons. She didn’t want any of her children at risk of drowning, the second-leading cause of death of children in the US.

Twenty-two Olympic medals and 39 world records later, Michael hasn’t drowned, and he has accomplished what he set out to do: Give the world Michael Phelps for sports history.

His goals, he says, were simple and clear: become an Olympic Gold medalist and, in the process, transform the sport of swimming. He has spent six years not missing one day of pool practice because for every one day you miss, it takes two days to get back.

“I got rid of the words ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ early on,” Phelps explained. “The one thing I really believe is that if you want something badly enough, you will do it. But make sure your goals are meaningful, achievable and something that excites you.”

Phelps also found that the simple act of writing them down was extraordinarily helpful. For him, it was hand-written, scribbled notes that served as an enormous point of communication between him and his coach for his training and preparation.

So what’s next now that he has retired from the world of swimming?

Michael has taken up what he calls the hardest sport in the world — golf. He’s on the cover of Golf Digest this month. He told the Strategic Growth Forum audience that after so many blisters, club throws, frustration and challenges — he couldn’t be happier.

Phelps admitted, “I have the milestones I want to hit and I hate to lose!”

Michael PhelpsspacerMichael Phelps has been making waves in the sports world since he was young. This summer at the 2012 Olympic Games, he made history and became the most decorated Olympian of all time with a career record of 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold. At 27 years old, Phelps has already had a lifetime of experiences — in the pool and out. In 2008, he founded the Michael Phelps Foundation, which aims to grow the sport of swimming and, most importantly, encourage children to lead healthy, active lives. To date, the Foundation’s signature im program is in seven countries in partnership with Special Olympics and in 28 Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the US. In 2004, Phelps founded Swim with the Stars, an Olympic swimming tour that traveled the country to give kids the opportunity to learn from the best, and today his Michael Phelps Swim School is expanding internationally. Also an accomplished author, Phelps considers his New York Times best-selling children’s book, How to Train with a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals, to be one of his proudest accomplishments. Named No. 1 Olympic Athlete of the Decade, Phelps is an example of hard work and dedication for young and old.


Rowdy Gainesspacer

Rowdy Gaines has one of the most inspirational stories in the history of sports. After years of training, Rowdy’s dream of swimming in the Olympics was halted by the US boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games. After taking a year off from training, Rowdy returned to the 1984 Olympics as an underdog but emerged a winner with three gold medals. In a turn of events, Rowdy was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 1991, paralyzing him for over two weeks. Not only did he recover, he went on to win two World Masters titles and broke two World Masters records the following year. Known as one of the world’s most dedicated, ambitious athletes, he symbolizes the American spirit. Today, Rowdy is often referred to as “swimming’s greatest ambassador.” As the voice of the sport, he has worked with CBS, TNT, ESPN and NBC as an announcer for swimming and other events. He is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and travels the world sharing his passion and love for the sport with youth, parents and coaches. Rowdy has served as a national spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network, Disney and John Hancock, among others.