[SPORTS★★] MICHAEL PHELPS THE PERSON IS BACK NOT JUST THE SWIMMER
(P2) Phelps, 29, who spent 45 days at an alcohol rehabilitation center in Arizona, said that in the years after the 2000 Olympics, which he qualified for as a 15-year-old, he gradually distanced himself from his mother and two sisters. He rewarded their UNCONDITIONAL LOVE by ignoring their phone calls and texts and aligned himself with people interested in DRAFTING OFF his celebrity. “A lot in the past I pushed away the people who really loved and cared about me,” Phelps said. “I know I’ve hurt a lot of people. It’s been terrible.”
(P3) Phelps said he feels like a new person, but the results were the same as usual when he raced at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Skyline Aquatics Center. In his first competition since the Pan Pacific Championships last August, Phelps won the 100-meter butterfly, defeating his LONGTIME RIVAL Ryan Lochte. It was the first of four individual events he was scheduled to swim.
(P4) No swimmer — not even the Olympians-turned-Hollywood stars JOHNNY WEISSMULLER and ELEANOR HOLM — has achieved greater fame than Phelps, whose HIGH PROFILE saddled him with a PUBLIC IMAGE of RECTITUDE that was unsustainable. This was especially true as he NAVIGATED adolescence, a time when teenagers try on PERSONAS to see how they fit.
(P5) “MY HAT GOES OFF to him,” said Lochte, a five-time Olympic medalist in 2012. He said his brush with celebrity after those London Games, including a starring role in a reality show, was instructive.
(P6) “It’s hard to get back to your NORMAL ROUTINE of going to the pool, beating your body up,” Lochte said. “You get to sleep in, you don’t have to report to a coach, you get to meet famous people. It’s one of the hardest things to get back in shape.”
(P7) Phelps’s life since his second Olympics in 2004 has been a virtual REALITY SHOW, with his every move SCRUTINIZED. Over the past six months, as part of his SELF-EVALUATION, an exercise Phelps described as brutal, he said he has learned to accept himself.
(P8) “I’m perfectly imperfect,” Phelps said. “I’m a human being. If I have all this energy and if I’m annoying, too bad. That’s who I am.”
(P9) He has returned to the water with a joy that he said he had not felt in a long time. “I smile in workouts,” Phelps said. “When I’m in training I do feel like I’m back in high school.”
(P10) It is a telling ADMISSION. That was before swimming became his profession rather than simply his passion. It was also before Phelps and his sisters, Hilary and Whitney, drifted apart from their father, Fred, who was divorced from their mother, Debbie, when Phelps was in grade school.
(P11) Swimming started out as a SANCTUARY from the school bullies and his parents’ broken marriage. After Phelps’s record performance of eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, it became a kind of prison, he said.
(P12 “I really only looked at myself as a swimmer,” Phelps said. “It’s sort of like for 15 years I was kind of living in a bubble. Swimming is what I did. That’s really all there was.”
(P13) So how does Phelps move forward in his life by returning to competitive swimming? He said he was coming back with a happier OUTLOOK. “I’m looking at swimming a lot better,” he said. “The goals that I have are very lofty. I come into work with a purpose every day.”
(P14) During the years Phelps was rewriting the Olympic record books, said his longtime coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Bob Bowman, “There is no question he took out some frustrations in the pool.”
(P15) But Bowman, whose relationship with Phelps goes back almost 20 years, CAUTIONED: “I don’t think you can say he just made swimming everything. The behaviors that led to our current situation, it’s pretty tough to draw a DIRECT LINE to swimming.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- In P3, Phelps says he feels like a new person. Have you had a similar experience in your life, where you felt like you got to start over again?
- In P7, we learn that Phelps life was like a reality show, where every move was scrutinized. How would you respond to such pressure? Would you welcome the attention or would you hate it?
- Have you ever, like Phelps, pushed away your love ones? Share your experience with you Cambly tutor!
Expressions to Practice
“Over the past six months, as part of his SELF-EVALUATION, an exercise Phelps described as brutal, he said he has learned to accept himself.” (P7)
What does “longtime rival”, “unconditional love” and “high profile” mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.