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Michael Phelps' girlfriend ain't none of yo business

Maese et al.,  

Subject: Private lives and private eyes

Fame is a strange beast, my friend. The world of gossip journalism is freaking out right now, trying to figure out whether or not Michael Phelps has a girlfriend. He is, in some ways, the David Beckham of the swimming world at the moment. The British tabloids are basically making things up about his private life (big surprise there!) saying that he's dating model Lily Donaldson or swimmer Amanda Beard, and TMZ.com has sent us a slew of emails, trying to confirm a rumor they heard that it's another swimmer. (Dear TMZ: Seriously, you could not be further off the mark.)

The suggestion that it's Amanda Beard is probably the most ridiculous rumor. Phelps and and Beard both shot it down in interviews the last few days (Beard: "Eww!"), and the Donaldson stuff is probably just as made up. Beard has a boyfriend, and it's not Phelps. I'd wager Mike has never even met Lily Donaldson. He just laughs when people make things up about him.

"You can't hide anything," he told me earlier this year. "Everyone finds out everything anyway. And if they don't, they just make something up, and no matter what you say, people believe it anyway. It's fine, I guess. It's part of what I do."  

Billy Bush, the journalistic equivalent of Beelzebub, caused a minor kerfluffle a few days ago when he showed Mike's mom a text message from Lindsay Lohan saying her son was, "(bleeping) amazing and I want to meet him!"

(Memo to Lindsay: If you really did send that message, you're about four years to late. And you're nasty. Enjoy your increasing irrelevancy.)  

Let me say this: There is a girl, and she's been a part of Phelps' life for awhile. She's not famous. I've seen them together at events, and she's striking. She makes Lohan look like Amy Winehouse. We've even got a picture of them together. (How do you like that, gossip sites?) But you know what? Some things in a guy's life deserve to be kept private. He's been successful in keeping things quiet thus far, declining to discuss their status, which is both understandable and admirable. (She was at the U.S. trials in Omaha, Neb. What their status is now, I don't care to speculate.) Whether or not he won eight gold medals, he deserves to have a part of his life he doesn't share with the world.

Australian swimmers deal with this kind of media frenzy all the time. When Stephanie Rice and Eamon Sullivan broke up shortly before the Olympics (reporters were tipped off when their status changed on Facebook), it was huge news Down Under. They live their lives in a fishbowl. Libby Trickett sold the exclusive rights to her wedding photos to the magazine New Idea. Grant Hackett had to answer a firestorm of questions from reporters after a poor performance at the 2007 world championships, and respond to speculation that he'd been too involved in his wedding planning to train properly.

Phelps has always said he wanted to make swimming as popular in the United States as it is in Australia. And so maybe dealing with this kind of speculation and rumor-mongering is a part of that process. The saddest thing is, if one Web site reports it, that somehow legitimizes it in the eyes of others. So they pick it up and the story -- completely untrue, remember -- snowballs. There is probably no stopping it.

This is fame, I guess.

You can't help but feel uncomfortable as you watch the sleazy adventure unfold. 


Photo: Speedo ad campaign 

Comments

Thank you for finally putting rest to the girlfriend debate! I hope that some of the girls who are swooning over Phelps can have some closure now.

I think Michael is just as adorable as any other girl does, but I think it is ridiculous that the media and fans are trying to pry into his personal life so much and are even starting rumors about who he's dating. He's said that he would rather not discuss his personal life, and America should respect that.

On that note, I'd like to say that Michael's girlfriend is a very lucky girl! :) I hope that they both are able to ignore everyone who's pressuring them and instead just enjoy these special post-Olympic moments.

Thank you for finally putting rest to the girlfriend debate! I hope that some of the girls who are swooning over Phelps can have some closure now.

I think Michael is just as adorable as any other girl does, but I think it is ridiculous that the media and fans are trying to pry into his personal life so much and are even starting rumors about who he's dating. He's said that he would rather not discuss his personal life, and America should respect that.

On that note, I'd like to say that Michael's girlfriend is a very lucky girl! :) I hope that they both are able to ignore everyone who's pressuring them and instead just enjoy these special post-Olympic moments.

I just want to know about Phelps' sisters. Now they are hot! :-)

Wait, so why does Phelps get a break on the romantic side of his personal life, yet other athletes don't again?

This is an interesting and thoughtful post, but I have to disagree. Michael (whom I adore) has chosen to become a celebrity, and not just an athlete. The line is blurry, but he's definitely crossed it. Some of the signs? Ad campaigns where he talks about his personal life (as opposed to training and the wacky diet spots), including pretending to talk to his mom, walking his dog, and so on; interviews where he talks about his coach as his father figure, what he learned from his mother and sisters; and of course the never ending interviews on NBC with the mother and sisters, that go far, far beyond Michael as athlete and deep into personal territory.

You can, as an athlete or even as an actor or model, draw a line and say "I will discuss my professional life, my training for it, and attempt to publicize my movies/sport/professional projects, but not my personal life, which is private." I haven't a clue about Usain Bolt's personal life, for example, and while his mother went ballistic in the stands when he won, we haven't seen interviews with her about his childhood. And there are some major celebs who manage to keep their personal lives fairly private.

What you can't do, really, is say "I will talk about my family and childhood and favourite songs and my day to day routine and make ads that appear to invite America into my living room, and I will discuss my friendships with my training partners and coach, and give cute anecdotes about how I can't cook or do my own laundry, but whom I date is totally off limits." It just doesn't work.

It sucks, I agree; and I can totally see why MP went the celebrity endorsement route, starting at 15 and in a single-parent family who probably had to spend a huge amount of money on his training to that point. But you just can't have that particular issue both ways: either you're an athlete, period, or you're a celebrity athlete, a public persona, in which case for better or for worse, you're putting yourself out there as a celebrity, not just an athlete.

None of which is to say that I find the whole gossip rage attractive; it's not, and kinda disturbing that people are SO much more concerned with his love life than the lessons about perseverance and discipline and dreaming big that we can learn from this young man. But yes, Mike's girlfriend is as much the public's business as his mom and sisters are, and that's because of choices he, and his managers and agents, have made.

Thank you!!
I think that Lily girl wanted some PR and sent some false information to a friend at a UK tabloid.
It's sickening.
I hope Michael remains level headed and stays with his non famous striking girlfriend.

I do have to say: it HAS broken out on the internet who she really is (at least, the girl being refered to in this blog). In fact, the description of this girl in the Baltimore Sun made it easy for those who had nothing better to do to figure it out (I was not one of them, but have heard about this since). "Girl with flawless skin and dark features" posted pictures of herself and Phelps (beyond the Golden Goggles photos) on Facebook (tagging Phelps on them) which made it very, very painfully easy for people to see. Her profile has since been removed. She really, really needs to be more careful if she DOES want to be anonymous...this isn't the first girl that this has happened to.

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Sun reporters Kevin Van Valkenburg and Rick Maese will blog from Beijing throughout the Summer Olympics. Kevin and Rick will blog back and forth with each other as a way of letting readers in on the sights, sounds and the action in Beijing.
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