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Beneath the Surface - My Story by Michael Phelps | | -

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The better the information we have about a product, the more we will sell! I was meters away. When I came off the last wall with 50 meters to go, I looked to my left and saw Italy's Alessio Boggiatto approaching the wall in Lane 3. Since the people who swim the fastest in the heats get the middle lanes in the finals, those swimmers can usually keep a close eye on their competition.

At that point I knew I was about to win the gold medal I'd been thinking about, talking about, even dreaming about, for most of my life. I smiled through the water for the last 25 meters. I rarely do that during practice unless someone cracks me up in the middle of easy laps, and I never do that during a race.

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That night I remember smiling as I glided into the wall. Immediately after every race I look up and try to find my mom, Debbie, in the stands. It isn't just because she's been there for all my meets, but because she's been there for everything else. She raised me as a single parent since I was seven and supported me unconditionally through everything, not just at moments when I was smiling at the ends of my races. So before I looked at the scoreboard, I looked up and saw my mom standing next to my sisters, Whitney and Hilary, who were all cheering. After that, I glanced at the clock and saw the WR, signifying world record, next to my name.

I put my arm in the air, but I was in a trance. Even though I had been ahead in the race, it still didn't sink in that I had won until I looked up and saw the 1 next to my name. I was waiting for that switch to go off, so I could let my emotions go. The switch came from Lane 1. I hadn't even noticed that he had finished second. We went one-two. At that moment I was as happy for Erik as I was for myself. He had won a silver, behind our teammate, Tom Dolan, four years earlier at the Sydney Olympics.

Nobody worked harder or deserved his medal more than Erik. Our team book lists him at about , but that's pretty generous. He doesn't have the physical gifts that other swimmers have, but he just works harder than other people. I never thought I'd celebrate like that with a Red Sox fan, but something like this is twice as sweet when you can share it with your teammates. I was still in a fog when we passed the mixed zone, an area underneath the stands where reporters stand behind some barriers and ask quick questions.

I was too giddy to remember what I said. Bob caught up to me then and handed me an instant breakfast drink. As much energy as I expend, I need to try to keep weight on and keep nutrients in my body after races and long training days. At that point, Bob was trying to get me back into the practice pool as fast as possible, so I could swim down and get some of the lactic acid out of my legs.

Especially with three more races the next day, a warm down at the end of a race was as important as a warm-up before one. After our events, we have to go into doping control. While we don't have to go right away, we always have to check in with a drug control steward and sign a form right after that race to confirm that we've been notified to be tested.

That night, the steward came up to me and started talking in slow motion. You may take, you have the op-shun, Mee-ster Phelps, to have, if I may ex-plain. It's his job to keep me grounded through the highs and lows, but this was a tough one. It was as big a high as I've ever felt. I got into the practice pool behind the stands and started swimming, still smiling through the water. Another official came over to tell Bob to get me ready for the medal ceremony.

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The medal ceremony was awesome. I had stood on podiums before, but I had never won an Olympic medal, and this one was over too quickly. We were introduced and given our medals. Then, to honor the ancient Games in Greece, they gave us wreaths to wear on top of our heads during the ceremony. We didn't know they were planning to do that, and we were a little unsure what to do once our music started playing.

I took the wreath off my head and put it over my heart.

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My mom had always taught me to try to keep calm in the face of tension and excitement. I was singing the anthem through my teeth and trying not to lose my composure at the same time. As I stared at the flags, I could see snapshots of a kid from Baltimore who was afraid of the water and a schoolteacher who said the kid wouldn't amount to anything because he couldn't concentrate.

I saw a coach driving the kid through 24 laps and a family who supported him through everything. Was I really that kid standing on up here? At "Home of the Brave," I closed my eyes, almost as if I were snapping one more picture I could look at again and again in my mind. I started walking with Erik past a photographers' well, where we stood and posed for pictures.

I was looking up into the stands at Hilary, who was shooting me with a camcorder. I looked up and saw Dolan, who usually says things twice when he gets a little excited. At that point, my mom passed by and I threw my flowers up to her in the stands before I went back to the practice pool. I swam down for 45 minutes, had a massage and got on the cell phone with Hilary. I hoisted myself up to kiss Whitney and Hilary. Then they each held a small cement box in place for my mom to step up and do the same. Thankfully, the guards gave us our space.

We were away from the hoard of reporters, and I didn't have to keep my emotions in check because Hilary was the only one taking pictures. The spotlight was gone and it was our moment.

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I put my wrists through the holes in the fence so my mom could hold my hands. Next I pointed to the medal and said, "Mom, look. Here it is. My eyes welled up again and so did hers. It was one of those moments when you want to say a million things because so much is running through your head. Yet for some reason, you say almost nothing. I'm sure I said more than, "I did it, Mom. I did it," but I was too semiconscious to remember much else. Okay, I was conscious again.