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Phelps older, wiser and Rio bound

When Michael Phelps made his first Olympic team, the media asked him if he had a girlfriend. And whether he’d kissed her yet. The kid…

When Michael Phelps made his first Olympic team, the media asked him if he had a girlfriend. And whether he’d kissed her yet.
The kid was 15 at the time. The year was 2000.
“I remember him,” Phelps said Wednesday night, smiling at the memory of his younger self. “I definitely remember him.”
A day shy of his 31st birthday, Phelps kissed his girlfriend in front of 14,000 people. He had just made his fifth Olympic team – most ever for an American male swimmer – and while soaking in the adulation in CenturyLink Center he planted a smooch on Nicole Johnson. He also kissed his sound-asleep, 7-week-old son, Boomer.
So, yeah, a lot has changed for Michael Phelps between his first and last Olympic berths as a 200-meter butterflyer.
Back then he was a veritable child; today he has a child of his own. Back then he was an unknown; today he is the most decorated Olympian in history. Back then he needed coach Bob Bowman at his side for every interview; today Bowman is still there, but no longer has to shepherd Phelps through questions. Back then he was bereft of introspection, as most 15-year-old boys are; today he is a veritable open book, full of insights and hard-earned wisdom. Back then he was a boy who harbored a grudge against his estranged father, Fred; today he has a blossoming relationship with the man.
Here is one more thing that can be said after winning the 200-meter butterfly Wednesday: the man has been an Olympian for more than half his life. And every one of those Olympic competitions have included his pet event, the 200 fly.
For so long, a fifth Phelps Olympics seemed implausible, if not impossible. Now it is going to happen – and quite likely in multiple events. He is an overwhelming favorite to make the team in 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley, as well as a strong relay candidate.
But the first qualifying event for 2016 was also the first (and only) event in 2000. An unparalleled Olympic career will end as it began – with remarkable athletic and personal growth along the way. That Phelps kid has turned out all right in the end.

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