Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps becomes Special Olympics Global Ambassador

From Sports Features:

TAMPA, Fla. -- Special Olympics announced today a groundbreaking new partnership with the Michael Phelps Foundation and appointed the superstar Olympian as Special Olympics Global Ambassador.

Following the World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, China, the agreement was made with the foundation to expand its signature “IM” program targeting an international pilot program that will bring water safety, recreational aquatic activities, and health, wellness and goal-setting instruction to Special Olympic athletes across six continents.

Phelps said, “I am extremely honored to be recognized as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador and appreciate their support of my Foundation’s IM program.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Special Olympics athletes over the last few years and believe that together we can help grow the sport of swimming while also encouraging active and healthy lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities.”

Fourteen-time Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps established the Foundation with the $1MM bonus he received from long-time sponsor Speedo for winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. Phelps has been involved helping Special Olympics since 2007, when he first held a swimming clinic for Special Olympics athletes in China prior to the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai.

Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics chair and ceo, said, “As we continue to look for opportunities for our athletes to achieve their personal best, we are thrilled to have Michael Phelps join our Movement in a way that will encourage our athletes to develop sports skills that transcend the pool.

“Michael’s involvement in Special Olympics and the support of his foundation will only increase participation in aquatics throughout Special Olympics – a sport that was near and dear to my mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.”

The IM program has been designed to promote swimming and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, especially among the youth and has been adopted as an innovative approach for the development of Special Olympics aquatic athletes. The expansive international pilot program includes Special Olympics programs in China, Australia, India, Brazil, Great Britain, South Africa and the United States.

To commemorate the partnership Phelps took to the pool with athletes from the Special Olympics and the Chinese National Team for a special swimming clinic that twinned instruction from the IM program and an exciting three-lane freestyle relay race.

As a Global Ambassador, and by swimming side-by-side with Special Olympics athletes, Phelps demonstrates his commitment to help overcome prejudices about intellectual disability. He is also inspiring lots of new swimmers to take to the pool and chase their Special Olympics Dreams.