Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, will use the $1 million bonus he earned from Speedo for tying Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals to start his own foundation.
Appearing on TODAY, Phelps announced that the Michael Phelps Foundation will distribute his prize money to various charitable programs to promote water safety and encourage youth swimming.
“This is a way for me to really help to grow the sport,” Phelps told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Tuesday.
Phelps has been sponsored by Speedo since he was 16. Prior to the Athens Olympics in 2004, Speedo built a million-dollar bonus into his contract if he won seven gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
At the Beijing Olympics, Phelps won eight gold medals, breaking Spitz’s mark of seven. The 23-year-old Maryland native now has 14 career Olympic golds overall and holds 26 world records in individual swimming events.
Phelps, who will host the 34th season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” on NBC on Sept. 13, says his foundation’s first initiative will be an eight-city tour across the United States, in collaboration with Speedo, to launch an educational program called “Dream, Plan, Reach.”
The program, based on a set of principles Phelps learned as a kid, will provide children with an easy-to-understand game plan for life beyond the pool, empowering them to live healthy and active lives while focusing on goal-setting, personal responsibility and discipline in day-to-day living.
He told Lauer it was a way to get kids into swimming, “because this sport has done so much for me, and for me to be able to welcome other kids and share the experiences that I‘ve had for the past 15 years of my life.
“It’s something that I think is important and something that will be fun,” he continued.
Phelps was presented the $1 million check by Joe Gromek, president and CEO of Warnaco, Speedo’s parent company.
“I feel it's only appropriate that I continue the momentum that Speedo helped to create by committing my bonus to the establishment of the Michael Phelps Foundation, which I hope will help me inspire others to achieve their dreams, and give back to the sport that has given me so much,” Phelps added in a statement.