“Put Her Head in Her Hands”: Swimming Legend Michael Phelps’ Condition to His Mother on Breaking the World Record Left Her Embarrassed in 2003

Published 11/27/2022, 7:05 AM EST
Michael Phelps with his mother Debbie Phelps

Swimming legend Michael Phelps is one of the most celebrated Olympians. Throughout his long career, he has surprised everyone with his exceptional talent. Phelps has won many prestigious titles, making his close ones, including his mother feel very proud. During one of Phelps’s competitions, he asked his mother for a reward for breaking a world record. The promise embarrassed his mother in front of a large audience. 

Phelps is a holder of 23 Olympic gold medals. At 2008’s Beijing Olympics, he broke fellow swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of seven medals by winning eight gold medals. The swimmer is also the world holder of men’s 400-meter individual medley. He also holds the world record in categories 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, and 200-meter individual medley. 


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What did Michael Phelps ask his mother for on breaking the world record?

In 2003, Phelps broke his own world record at the 10th FINA World Championship in Barcelona. He beat his record in the 400-meter individual medley by completing it within 4:09.09. His magnificent performance definitely blew everyone’s mind. But it was Phelps’s mother who was embarrassed. Not because he broke his previous record, but due to a promise that he asked her before the competition. 

In Phelps’s 2016 autobiography, Beneath The Surface: My Story, Phelps revealed the reason behind his mother’s embarrassment when he broke the world record. He stated: 

On the scoreboard, I could see my mom and Hilary jumping up and down and hugging. I had proposed to my mom that she should let me get a dog if I broke a world record in Barcelona., so after the race, Hilary held up a handmade sign that said simply: Dog? Then I could see my mom put her head in her hand and start laughing, embarrassed that 10,000 people were watching her and she wasn’t aware of it. She would get used to it during the week. “

Phelps continues to hold the record in the same category even today. It was in 2002 when he first created the world record by completing the race within 4:11.09. Every year, he kept setting the bar high by beating his own world record. At his last attempt in 2008’s Beijing Olympics, he completed the 400-meter individual medley within 4:03.84. 

What is Phelps doing now? 


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After announcing his retirement in 2016, Phelps is currently involved in several things. He has his own swimwear brand that creates quality swimming necessities, especially for competitive swimmers. 


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Watch This Story: Inside Swimming Legend Michael Phelps And Nicole Johnson’s secret marriage

As a philanthropist, Phelps has his own organization named Michael Phelps Foundation. It focuses on water safety, healthy living, and helping kids to follow their dreams. 



Muskan Sharma

236 articles

Muskan Sharma is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. She has a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Calcutta. Muskan has worked as a writer for 3+ years but has a knack for filmmaking, too.

Edited By: Pritam Priyedarshi