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Michael Phelps: Mother's Support Big Part of Olympic Success

Photo via huffingtonpost.com
Photo via huffingtonpost.com
Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIJuly 26, 2012

Through his unfortunate shortcomings and his greatest successes, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' mother Debbie has been there for it all.

In Beijing when Phelps broke Mark Spitz's record by bringing home his eighth gold medal in the games, he was quoted (via NewYorkTimes.com):

There's so much emotions going through my head, so much excitement. I guess I just want to see my mom.

Debbie has overcome many struggles in her lifetime. A single mother raising Michael and his two sisters on a teacher's salary after her divorce from the children's father, Fred, Debbie has raised the one of the greatest Olympic champions of all time.

From his youth training in the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, to his college days at Michigan, from his achievements in Athens in 2004, to his immortal success in Beijing in 2008, Debbie Phelps has always been there with unequivocal support.

She is the Wanda Pratt of the Olympic games.

Despite having a superstar prodigy from a young age, Debbie has always preached responsibility and accountability to her son.

She would not be the overbearing mother that pushed her son when he resisted. Rather, she let him discover his own limitations and capabilities on his own.

Irresponsible at times, Michael sometimes learned the hard way.

At a swim meet when Michael was 14, he realized that he had forgotten to pack his goggles.

Reaching out to Debbie for help, she looked back, showing her empty hands (via Today in London Blog):

"There was nothing I could do about it! He hasn't forgotten his goggles since," she laughed.

Although Michael struggled in school, he was a genius about everything in the pool.

Debbie recalled (via NewYorkTimes.com):

In high school, they'd send tapes from his international races. ... He'd say, "Mom I want to have dinner in front of the TV and watch tapes." We'd sit and he'd critique his races. He'd study the turns – "See, that's where I lifted my head." I couldn't even see what he was talking about. Over and over. I'm like, "whoa."

Coming from a family of swimmers, Michael was not the only one with Olympic aspirations. His sisters Hilary and Whitney had Olympic dreams as well, but neither were as talented or as gifted as Michael.

The Phelps' home became a hub for swimming, kept running by Debbie's commitment to her children. 

Although she was a single mother, Debbie did whatever it took to help her children pursue their dreams.

Whether it was sacrificing weekends, holidays and vacations, driving long distances to meets or taking her kids to and from two-a-day practices, Debbie did whatever was necessary to help her children succeed in their passions.

Entering what will likely be his last Games in London, Phelps will again be looking to dominate the pool. 

There likely won't be the same type of magic as in Beijing four years ago, but Phelps is still the favorite.

More than anything, these games will carry an air of nostalgia and feature the graceful ending of something great.

Like Michael Jordan's last playoff series against the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Phelps will give fans one last chance to see greatness manifest itself in the pool on the world's grandest stage.

Three medals of any color will make Phelps the most decorated Olympian ever. With 19, he will supplant Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina's all-time record of 18.

Debbie says that Michael won't be getting caught up in the race to become the all-time greatest (via USAToday.com):

It's not about the medals for Michael. ... It's about the sense of accomplishment.

For Debbie, Michael's impending retirement from the Olympics will be as challenging for her son as it will be for her.

In an interview with PEOPLE magazine, Debbie commented (via People.com):

It'll be a big moment. ... I'll pull out my box of [tissues], because it's going to be emotional.

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