So, the first question that we get when we tell someone that Mark is a swimmer, no matter who we may be talking to, is always, "Do you know Michael Phelps?"
My answer: Yes. We know Michael Phelps.
I, personally, am not exactly friends with Michael, but Mark has been swimming and traveling with Michael for practically a decade. Mark has been on multiple relays with Michael. Does Michael swim Mark's event (or, what people usually ask is, does Mark swim Michael's events?). No. The breaststroke, Mark's specialty, is the one stroke that Michael does not swim. I tell people that Michael doesn't swim it because he is afraid to race against Mark.
The Phelps Family from My Point of View
From my point of view, remember, I am the one sitting in the stands, I have gotten the opportunity to get to know other nervous swim wives, moms, dads, siblings, cousins, etc. So, it is Mrs. Phelps whom I can discuss.
Mrs. Phelps, like other nervous moms, sits in the stands. She watches the score board for splits, puts her hands over her face in anticipation and cries at both victories and defeats (similar to me, but I am in a pair of cut-off shorts and a tank top and she is in a complete Chico's outfit--jewelery and all). She does usually have more of an entourage than I do, however (okay, let's face it, I have no entourage except sometimes my mother). She also doesn't seem to carry along a camera-I guess if you have every media outlet taking action shots of your son and candid photos of your family you don't need to carry along your own camera. But, besides that, she is a typical swim mom.
Last weekend we took our five month old daughter, Annabelle, to the Charlotte UltraSwim. It wasn't Annabelle's first trip to the pool (we drug her to Winter Training in Ft. Lauderdale with the Auburn University swim team when she was just 4 weeks old), but it was her first 'big' meet with Mark and the first time we were 'introducing' her to all of the swimming folk. Everyone loved her... including Mrs. Phelps. This is why we love swimming. No matter who you are, who you are related to, and who you are cheering for, everyone is in this thing (professional swimming) together. When Mrs. Phelps saw Mark with Annabelle she reached out and gave Mark a hug (I mean the kind of hug only a mom knows how to give). "I am so proud of you and your family," she told him.
I held back the tears, but thought, "I am, too."
These are the sorts of experiences I have with the Phelps Family.
The other experience I have, which is not so personal, but just as awesome, involves a year's worth of free pizza. After the 2008 Olympics, Pizza Hut gave everyone on the U.S. Olympic swim team a year's worth of free pizza to celebrate Michael's amazing gold medal streak. We thought this was great at the time, but when I got pregnant in the spring of 2009 and we still had plenty of pizza left in the year, we thought this was AMAZING. I was not only refusing to cook, but I was hungry beyond belief. I could down an entire medium pizza by myself (I guess I wasn't totally alone, though Annabelle was only a couple of centimeters long, so I hardly think I can blame her for craving a entire peperoni pizza). I still associate my first trimester with Pizza Hut and, strangely enough, Michael Phelps.