Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Phelps is Back After Suspension [J. Mark English]

Michael Phelps, after serving a three month ban from swimming, will be returning to the pool this weekend. Karen Crouse of the New York Times writes:

Delivering multiple golds was going to be like labor: an all-out push for the Beijing Olympics, followed by a breather, then another hard push for the 2012 Games in London.

That was the master plan drawn up several years ago by Michael Phelps’s coach, Bob Bowman, and approved by his mother, Debbie, and it worked like a dream. For nine days last summer in China, Phelps could do no wrong as he surpassed the swimmer Mark Spitz’s record with eight gold medals.

With the high-degree-of-difficulty phase of the plan completed to perfection, there seemed like less need for a safety net. Bowman broke ground on his horse farm in northern Maryland and resumed coaching. Debbie Phelps worked on a memoir and welcomed new students as the principal of Windsor Middle School.

For the first time in his life, Phelps, 23, was allowed time and space to broaden his circle of influence and interests.

The idea was to give Phelps room to breathe, not inhale.

In February, a photograph of Phelps holding a marijuana pipe surfaced. Bowman had miscalculated. Swimming would not be the hard part for Phelps. Negotiating his way on land with only his wits to guide him would be more difficult.

For nearly 12 years, Phelps had been hermetically protected from the outside world. From his heart rate to his social activities, nothing went unmonitored.

“I had this monster goal and I achieved it,” Phelps said last week. “To be able to do what I did, my life growing up had to be how it was.”

The blueprint for becoming the most well-rounded swimmer in history turned out to have a built-in flaw. It made Phelps one-dimensional, someone who by his own admission is lost without the structure of his sport.

“The trade-off is he missed some experiences that other people had,” Bowman said. “I guess the question is, what do we do after that? And I think that’s what he’s working on now, expanding his horizons beyond swimming.”


Shortly after being suspended, Saturday Night Live did a great "Really?" segment in regards to Phelps:

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