Michael Phelps Becomes Special Olympics' Newest Global Ambassador

Michael Phelps Foundation’s IM Program Expands to Seven Countries in Partnership with Special Olympics International

Michael Phelps in Shanghai, China with Special Olympics athletes Dong Fang and Fu Yin Ping running a Special Olympics Swimming Clinic. Click image to download.

Shanghai, China -Following the World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, China, Special Olympics announced a new partnership with the Michael Phelps Foundation and appointed the international swimming legend as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador.  The Michael Phelps Foundation will expand its signature “IM” program through an international pilot program with Special Olympics that will bring water safety, recreational aquatic activities, and health, wellness and goal-setting instruction to Special Olympic athletes across six continents.

In his capacity as Global Ambassador, Phelps will assist Special Olympics’ efforts to raise awareness and change attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities who struggle to be accepted, heard, and included in society. Phelps has been involved in Special Olympics since 2007, when he first held a swimming clinic for Special Olympics athletes in China prior to the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai.  “As we continue to look for opportunities for our athletes to achieve their personal best, we are thrilled to have Michael Phelps join our Movement in a way that will encourage our athletes to develop sports skills that transcend the pool,” said Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO Special Olympics. “Michael’s involvement in Special Olympics and the support of his foundation will only increase participation in aquatics throughout Special Olympics – a sport that was near and dear to my mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.”

The Michael Phelps Foundation developed the IM program in conjunction with KidsHealth.org and the Michael Phelps Swim School that was launched as a national pilot program in 2010 with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and recently expanded to Clubs across 14 states in the U.S.  The IM program, designed to promote the sport of swimming and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, especially among children, has been adopted as an innovative approach for the development of Special Olympics aquatic athletes.  The international pilot program includes Special Olympics programs in China, Australia, India, Brazil, Great Britain, South Africa and the United States.

 “I am extremely honored to be recognized as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador and appreciate their support of my Foundation’s IM program,” said 14-time Olympic gold medalist Phelps. “I have had the pleasure of working with Special Olympics athletes over the last few years and believe that together we can help grow the sport of swimming while also encouraging active and healthy lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities.” 

Today, in celebration of the partnership, Michael Phelps joined Special Olympics athletes and Chinese National Team athletes for a special swimming clinic that incorporated instruction from the IM program and an exciting three-lane freestyle relay race.  Through this exciting partnership, as a Global Ambassador, and by swimming side-by-side with Special Olympics athletes, Phelps demonstrates his commitment to inclusion and to help overcome prejudices about intellectual disability.

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities c all over the world to community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

About the Michael Phelps Foundation
The Michael Phelps Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthy and active lives, especially for children. Fourteen-time Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps established the Foundation with the $1MM bonus he received from long-time sponsor Speedo for winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. The Foundation’s first initiative was a nationwide tour to share Phelps’ Olympic experience and promote his message of Dream, Plan, Reach with members of the Boys & Girls Clubs. Since then, the Foundation has developed and launched theprogram, helped establish Level Field Fund-Swimming, a grant giving program that provides funding to uniquely talented swimmers in need of financial assistance, and offers autographed swim caps for charity auctions through Caps-for-a-Cause. For more information, please visit us online at www.michaelphelpsfoundation.org or http://www.facebook.com/MichaelPhelpsFoundation.

Mandy Murphy