Sports : Swimming in Michael Phelp's world : The nightly light shows, so elaborate that fans experience the sensation of being trapped in a giant crystal raindrop chandelier, are part of Mishael Phelp's legacy.

With a record 28 Olympic medals, including 23 golds, Phelps transformed the U.S. Olympic swimming trials from a quadrennial family reunion into a spectacle that he described this week as ''semi-overwhelming.''

Phelps, 35, was a fixture of these trials for so long that seven of the eight women's finalists in the 100 meter butterfly on one recent Monday night weren't born the last time he attended the meet as a spectator in 1996.

To frame Phelps' reign further, he has held the world record in the 400-meter individual medley for four months longer than the women's 100 butterfly winner, the 18-year-trials rookie Torri Huske has been alive.

Five-years into retirement, Phelps has exchanged isolation for outreach, sprinkling instruction and advice like the pope blessing his flock with holy water. As a mentor he has found a way to pull the U.S. team along in his wake without getting wet.

Inside the CHI Health Center Arena on Tuesday, Phelps's influence could be seen in the long strokes and high-hips that Luca Urlando maintained on the final 50 meters of his preliminary swim in the 200 meter butterfly.

Urlando, a 19-year-old from Sacramento, caught Phelps's attention when he broke his 17-18 national age-group record in the event. That was two years ago. Phelps since has reached out with technical and tactical tips that Urlando used one recent Tuesday night to advance to the final by tying for the latest time recorded  in the semifinals.

On Monday, Michael Andrew, who has gobbled up Phelps's national age groups records like  Pac-Man, won the 100-meter breaststroke to qualify for his first Olympic team.

Andrew was a youth soccer player, more interested in goalkeeping than gold medals, when he posed for a photograph with Phelps at a swim clinic in Atlanta as a bashful 5-year-old. He turned professional at 14, supplanting Phelps by one year as the youngest male swimmer to forsake his amateur status.

Phelps keeps in touch with Andrew, 22, who said, ''It's cool that's been intentional with reaching out to me and supporting me and encouraging where I'm at.''

He added : ''It's pretty surreal that the greatest of all time is watching my career. It's not something I ever expected, but I'm super grateful.''

After spending half his life focused on maximizing his potential, Phelps is enjoying his new purpose : helping the next generation of swimmers maximize theirs.

The World Students Society thanks author Karen Crouse.


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