Four more years — that’s how long Michael Phelps plans to keep swimming competitively and endorsing Speedo.
The Warnaco Group Inc.-owned swimwear label is sticking with the aquatic wunderkind, despite him having his share of tabloid ink, most recently for having a suspended driver’s license after getting in a fender bender last month. During an interview Wednesday morning at The Hudson Hotel, the 24-year-old Olympian said he has never swum in any other brand. “Think about it. I’ve never worn another suit — I’ve never tried another suit,” he said. “And I have been able to have a fairly good amount of success with Speedo.”
In the coming months, Speedo plans to unveil updated technical swimwear that adheres to new rules released by the sport’s governing body FINA. Last month, 43 world records were smashed at the world championships in Rome, including several that appeared to be aided by highly buoyant full bodysuits that are now banned from the sport. Speedo’s next incarnation will feature “jams,” men’s swimwear that extends from the hipbone to knee instead of the ankle, and open-back suits for women instead of full-covered ones. Phelps waved off the suggestion that Speedo may have indirectly accelerated the rampant record-breaking since the brand’s LZR suit upped the ante for research and development, noting it was exciting for fans to watch the record-breaking and the rivalries, which should only build up steam until the next Olympics.
“The thing I like about next year is that swimming is going to be about swimming again,” he said. “The coverage and the headlines aren’t going to be about who wore this suit and who that suit. Everyone is going to have to work hard to win. When I see results I know I have worked as hard as I could.”
After taking home five gold medals and one silver from last month’s meet in Rome, Phelps has been taking a breather and hasn’t been in the pool in weeks. “I haven’t been doing anything. I sit around. I eat more than I normally do. I’m more lazy than I have ever been. I sleep all the time. I watch other people play sports. I golf a little bit,” he said.
Of course, such inactivity is not his standard procedure. At the peak of his training, Phelps normally logs between 60,000 and 70,000 meters each week, swimming six days a week and working out three to six hours each day. “I still have so many things that I want to do. I have a lot of little goals,” he said. “As long as I do those things, I will be able to look back at my career as a success. It doesn’t matter how many records I break or medals I win. As long as I’ve done everything I wanted to do, I can say it was a success.”
Aside from his athletic goals, which he does not disclose, not even to his most steadfast supporter — his mother — Phelps said he is eager to see the sport become more mainstream and to help Speedo’s research and development team advance its swimwear. USA Swimming just posted its largest uptick in post-Olympic membership with an 11.2 percent increase in participation, he noted. The media frenzy about Phelps no doubt helped those figures much in the same way that Michael Jordan, whom Phelps looked up to as a child for revolutionizing basketball, did.
But don’t look for the swimmer to be making the rounds in the Bryant Park tents. Having already been there done that, Phelps said, “It’s a different world than the sports world — cool clothes, attractive women.”
The most decorated American Olympian said he is more interested in sharing his “Dream, Plan, Reach” motto with others, especially children. “No matter where they want to go in life those three things will help them get there. If you dream, plan, reach, you can compete in anything, whether it’s in the classroom, in your profession or in sports.”
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