I have to admit, I am hooked on the Olympics. The main draw..watching Michael Phelps make Olympic history. For me, rooting for Phelps is like cheering on a neighborhood kid.
Phelps went to my junior high and high school back in Baltimore. Our paths never crossed, he was graduating from Towson High School in 2003 when I was already reporting for KGW. However, the route Towson kids take is one in the same. Everyone grows up on subs from Harry Little's (the cheeseburger subs are the best), goes shopping at Towson Town Center, and to Ocean City for summer vacations. When you grow up in a suburb like Towson (pop. 51,000), you are bonded with the people who went before you and after you, like Phelps.
I call or text my family every morning after a Phelps win to make sure they were watching. My mother, older brother and twin sisters went to Towson High, as well. We've been Phelps fans since Athens. I still have the unopened Wheaties box in my cupboard. One of our producers at channel 8, Craig Edwards, checked on EBAY for me last week..it hasn't increased in value. But that's not why I have it.
Phelps grew up in the same neighborhood as my mother. Its called Rogers Forge, a post-world war II brick row house community on the Baltimore County line.
He is the product of a single mother. His mother and father, high school sweethearts, divorced when Michael was about nine. He reportedly doesnt have much if any contact with his father.
Although Towson High is one of the best public schools in Baltimore County (recently ranked #240 in Newsweek Magazine's Top 1,300 U.S. High Schools), it doesn't have a swimming program, or a pool. The "Generals" have a history of state lacrosse, badmitton and volleyball titles.
So when Phelps wanted to swim, he took lessons at a nearby private boys school. The coach recognized his talent and urged his mother to get him into a better facility. At 15, Phelps he made the 2000 U.S. Olympic swim team. He placed 5th in his one event, the 200-meter butterfly. Towson High renamed the street in front of the school "Michael Phelps Way" and the rest is history.
Phelps makes it look so easy, the way his legs undulate when he pushes off from the wall, his ability to hold his breath longer than his competitors and his seemingly effortless glides in the water.
To fuel his machine, he eats eight to ten thousand calories A DAY(that's a lot of Harry Little's subs) !!!!! I'm not sure I eat that much in a week!
There isn't a dearth of sports heroes in Baltimore. Cal Ripken and Johnny Unitas are two of the many. But this one..the human fish..is different, at least to me.
Phelps intends to beat Mark Spitz' record of seven gold medals in one single Olympics. Tonight Phelps made history by becoming the winningest Olympian in history. With each victory, you feel as if you've won. I know I do.
Photos: Phelps in Action