Phelps' 2008 Olympics
Take a look at how Michael Phelps became the most decorated gold medalist in Olympic history at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Michael Phelps is heading back to the city where he made Olympic history.
The record-breaking swimmer left Friday for Beijing, a trip tied to his new sponsorship deal with the automaker Mazda that is billed as China’s largest ever for a foreign celebrity.
Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing, breaking Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record for most wins at a single Olympics and earning him The Associated Press male athlete of the year award. He also holds the record for most career golds with 14, a total he hopes to add to at the 2012 London Games.
“The guy is a folk hero in mainland China,” said Chris Fenton, general manager of DMG North America, which brokered the deal between Phelps and FAW Mazda. “Even though he is not Chinese and the eight gold medals were not won by a Chinese athlete, it was such an incredible story, such an incredible feat, that the Chinese, like the rest of the world, saw him as a wonder.”
While specific financial terms were not released, Phelps will receive “well into the seven figures per year” to exclusively endorse the new Mazda 6 model in a Chinese advertising campaign that includes television commercials, billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, along with personal appearances.
“The people of China have been very supportive of me and my efforts to help promote swimming,” Phelps said in a statement. “I am excited to begin 2009 with my first return trip to Beijing since the Games.”
Phelps will be in Beijing through Thursday. Among the stops on his itinerary: the Water Cube, where he won his eight gold medals, seven of them with world-record times.
The swimmer has cashed in on his notoriety since the games, hosting “Saturday Night Live,” working the talk-show circuit and releasing a new book.
But Phelps plans to resume serious training before the month is out, with an eye toward working on some new events heading into this summer’s world championships in Rome.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.