March 14, 2013
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in the history of sport, became the first recipient of the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award at Monday's Ceremony. But just hours before he also visited the Complexo Esportivo da Rocinha, situated in a large favela in Rio de Janeiro, to meet young swimmers following in his remarkable footsteps.
Complexo Esportivo da Rocinha (Rocinha Sports Centre) which opened in December 2010, is part of the Rio 2016 Olympic Development Programme. It currently benefits 4,500 people and offers 17 different sports, plus providing social and health services.
Michael, who won 22 Olympic medals in his career, including 18 gold medals, led a swimming clinic at Rocinha featuring elements from the Michael Phelps Foundation’s ‘im’ programme.
‘Im’ stands for individual medley, one of Michael Phelps’ most celebrated events, and it also reflects ‘I am’ which is a focus of the approach of the programme which tries to increase the self-confidence of the young people who attend.
Michael, who established the Michael Phelps Foundation following his record-setting performance at the 2008 Olympics, when he won eight gold medals, talked to some of the youngsters about the basic principles of his Olympic success – Dream, Plan, Reach.
He said: “Coming to the Laureus World Sports Awards has given me a great opportunity to visit Rocinha and get a feel for what is going on here. I enjoyed meeting some of the kids and I really feel sport is making a difference here.”
Michael met the youngsters poolside at the project, and even took some questions from the kids before joining fellow London 2012 swimmers Chad le Clos and Daniel Dias in the pool.
Two separate young swimmers asked: "How do you swim so fast?" But Michael's reply remained the same: "Hard work and dedication."
The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation currently supports more than 140 projects around the world which have helped to improve the lives of over one-and-a-half million young people, including three in Rio de Janeiro – Luta Pela Paz, Bola Pra Frente and Gol de Letra – and has strong links with Complexo Esportivo da Rocinha.
Since he retired from swimming after the London Olympics, Phelps has been working actively for the Michael Phelps Foundation, his personal sporting charity, and talks have been held with Laureus to see if there are ways in which the two organisations can work together.