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Phelps gets in the pool with Chicago kids

September 3, 2008 4:36:28 PM PDT
Some young swimmers in Chicago received an Olympic surprise Wednesday afternoon: 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps paid them an unexpected visit. The children that were gathered at Fosco Park pool, 1312 S. Racine, Wednesday afternoon were stunned to say the least. They were all 10-to-14-year-olds and all members of Chicago Park District swim and water polo teams. They were treated to a lesson from none other than the greatest Olympic swimmer of all-time.

The golden fish, Olympic sensation Michael Phelps, in Chicago Wednesday, said he wants to model his post-Games career after another Chicago icon, not Oprah Winfrey, who he appeared with Wednesday morning for a taping of her show at Millennium Park, along with 175 other U.S Olympic athletes. Phelps says he wants to do for swimming what Michael Jordan did for basketball.

"For me to be able to look up to him and see what he did in the sport of basketball and try to sort of compare that to what I can hopefully do in the sport of swimming," said Phelps.

Phelps is already turning his gold into green, collecting $3-to-$5 million a year in sponsorships from Omega, Speedo, Visa, AT&T and Hilton hotels.

Just Tuesday, Speedo gave him a $1 million bonus for breaking Mark Spitz's long-standing record by collecting eight gold medals in Beijing.

Phelps says a good part of that money will go to a foundation he's starting to promote water safety and youth swimming.

"It's been a bit like word-of-mouth type thing. Everyone's talking about it. And I just want to keep that going. I don't want swimming to stay an every-four-year sport. I want it to be an every year sport," said Phelps.

And, making good on that promise, Phelps held a clinic Wednesday afternoon at Fosco Park pool on Chicago's Near West Side. For the lucky Chicago-area kids taking part, it was a huge surprise. They were told there would be a special guest, but not that it would be Phelps.

"He's a nice swimmer, very great. And he's really fast," said Angel Sturdivant, swimmer.

"He's like one of my role models, and it's amazing to see him come to Chicago, to this place," said Jaime Juarez, swimmer.

It sure was a thrill for those kids. Michael Phelps told the kids that he will be swimming in 2012 and that will be his last Olympics. He said hopes he will be able to watch the Olympics in Chicago in 2016.

One kid asked Phelps what he wants to do right now. Phelps said, to be honest, he just wants to go home and see his dog and sit on the couch and watch some TV. Who can blame him?


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