AFP/Omaha, United States
Michael Phelps is viewing what he vows is a last Olympic campaign through a fresh set of eyes, thanks to the arrival of baby son Boomer last month.
The 30-year-old superstar, who has displayed a steely competitive streak in winning a jaw-dropping 18 Olympic gold medals over four Games, is a downright softie when describing his seven-week old son.
“When I’m holding him or laying on the couch with him, it’s just awesome,” Phelps said as he looked forward to the arrival of fiancee Nicole Johnson and their little one in Omaha, where Phelps will vie this week to make a fifth Olympic team at the US swimming trials. “I’ve learned which cry means what. If he needs a diaper change, if he needs mom, all of these different cries.”
Boomer Robert Phelps was born on May 5, his name chosen because Phelps liked the sound of it when he heard former NFL player and current broadcaster Boomer Esiason on television.
“I was like, ‘Boomer is kind of cool,’” Phelps said.
“It’s different. We don’t really know many Boomers.”
Johnson, who also wanted to stay away from ordinary names, agreed. While Phelps knows Boomer won’t remember it, he’s delighted the infant will see the last laps of his career, not only in Omaha but also in Rio, which Phelps plans to make a family affair.
“I’m looking forward to having him here and just being able to have my son, my first child, be able to watch me at some of my last competitions,” Phelps said.
“I think that is pretty special.”
Phelps’s training regimen has kept him away from home a lot since the birth, but he’s getting plenty of updates.
“Nicole and I are so stoked. I get 30 photos a day when I’m out of town,” he said. “It’s fun watching him grow up. He’s only seven weeks, but (we’re) watching him gain weight and grow hair and see his eyes start to change color.”
Like a new person
The new addition is making an impact on Phelps’s swimming family as well.
Longtime coach Bob Bowman can now claim the affectionate honorific “Grandpa” and training partner Allison Schmitt has her share of baby tales.
“I have had a poopy diaper pooped on my shirt, so I have experienced that already!” Schmitt said with a laugh.
“But it’s awesome to see the family together, to see the three of them. It’s fun to see Michael as a dad, and I can just see how happy he is. You can see it every day, even when he comes into practice. He’s like a new person, a new father.”
And the newest Phelps is right at home in the water.
“We will give him a bath and sometimes he’s happy — and sometimes he starts crying when he gets out because he likes the water,” Phelps said.
Bowman can’t help imagining the possibilities.
“He has a long body and little legs,” Bowman said of the baby. “I keep trying to move them in a breaststroke motion, you know, start early?”
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