Michael Phelps will qualify for Rio Olympics: Cathy Bennett
Swimming legend Michael Phelps’ return to the sport is clearly not going as per plan, with the 29-year-old currently excluded from the USA swim team for the World Championships in Russia and the Pan-American Games in Toronto later this year after he was found guilty for a drunken-driving offence in September last year.
Michael Phelps. Pic/AFP
However, Cathy Bennett, Phelps’ first swim instructor, has no doubt he can make it to the team for the 2016 Olympics to be held at Rio de Janeiro.
“He will give his 150 per cent. If the past proves true, he can achieve great things. He’ll be a leader,” said Bennett, who was in the city on Saturday to launch the Michael Phelps Swimming programme -- a grassroot-level swimming programme for enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.
Phelps won an unprecedented 22 Olympic medals, including 18 golds, and is widely regarded as the best swimmer of all time.
“I’ve known Michael since he was four. He is a fierce competitor. His biggest asset is his ability to adjust in the pool; he works really hard and completely understands water.
“He wants to be challenged, is very coach-able and very smart. As soon as he achieves his goals, he resets them.
“That is the mark of a true champion,” she added, highlighting why the US athlete could still touch the lofty heights that he achieved before retiring after the 2012 Olympics -- a decision he later reversed in April last year.
“He thought about coming back from retirement for a long time. He must have felt that he had a lot left to give. And he is already giving by example.
Cathy Bennett (right) monitors a group of young swimmers at Ajmera I-Land Academy in Wadala on Saturday. Pic/Sameer Markande
“Retirement wasn’t fulfilling enough for him. Coming back was a personal decision,” she said, before adding that while Phelps is a good friend, he did not consult her over his decision to come back.
Having coached a five-year-old Phelps, besides children from over 30 states in the US and in over 20 countries across six continents, Bennett has now expanded her programme, of which the legendary swimmer is the owner, president and CEO, in India along with Mumbai-based Waveline Sports.
“I have taught thousands of children to swim. We want to grow the sport of swimming in India. We will be training the trainers. Phelps has changed the profile of swimming in USA. We want to do it in India,” she said at a press
conference on Saturday.