Michael Phelps, a world-renowned swimmer who tallied 16 Olympic medals by age 27, rubbed Ronda Rousey the wrong way at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with what appeared to be a rock star attitude towards his fellow U.S. Olympians.
"Michael Phelps kind of annoyed me a little bit because we had this bud club thing, right, for the U.S. team," Rousey said. "All the Olympians are there together and everyone is hanging out, all the NBA players are there and everyone's hanging out. Michael Phelps needed his own private section of the club to be, like, private for him. All the NBA players are a bigger deal than him and they're all hanging out with the rest of us. I was like 'We're your teammates. We're not a bunch of groupies. Come hangout with us. Who the hell are you?'"
Phelps Keeps At A Distance?
Rousey was also miffed at Phelps' decision to separate himself backstage when Oprah Winfrey welcomed the medal-winning U.S. Olympians back home with a ceremony in Sept. of 2008.
"Same thing, all the NBA guys....Kobe [Bryant] sitting next to me, talking on the staircase, everyone being super cool.....and Michael Phelps had to be kept separate in a different backstage area so he didn't get harassed by other Olympians," Rousey said of her appearance on Oprah's show. "I don't like being someone's teammate and being treated like I'm their groupie. I didn't even want to go out of my way to go say 'hi' to that guy. I'm like 'Get over yourself. All you do is swim.' If someone slapped you every time you jumped in the pool, then I'd have a little bit more respect. But I was a swimmer before I did this s***, so you can't really tell me that swimming is 'Oh, my God!' because it's not."
Rousey's beef with Phelps seems to be far more personal than her attack on Kim Kardashian earlier this month, when she said the reality star was famous for nothing more than her sexual exploits.
Rousey doesn't appear to have ever met Kardashian, but the fact that she was Phelps' teammate for a month in Beijing adds weight to her comments. He isn't some random celebrity that she called out just to grab headlines.
Phelps Suffers From ADHD
Rousey may have been absolutely telling the truth that Phelps kept himself at a distance from other Olympians on his own team, but there may be a legitimate reason for it without chocking his actions up to him just "being a diva."
It is well-documented that Phelps suffers from ADHD, and he wasn't able to focus on anything as a child growing up in Baltimore. In an additudemag.com interview, Phelps' mom, Debbie, details how she was forced to try several different strategies just to keep her son focused at swim meets.
"We came up with a signal I could give him from the stands," Mrs. Phelps said of the techniques she would use to keep her son's attention from wandering. "I'd form a 'C' with my hand, which stood for 'compose yourself.' Every time I saw him getting frustrated, I'd give him the sign. Once, he gave me the 'C' when I got stressed while making dinner. You never know what's sinking in until the tables are turned!"
Since Phelps was gaining national attention at the time for creeping up on the U.S. record for all-time gold Olympic medals, it's easy to see how he would shield himself from the other athletes in order to keep his focus on the task at hand.
Rousey clearly had no idea that Phelps suffered from this condition, so perhaps this was all just a big misunderstanding. Hopefully Phelps will respond to Rousey's comments by offering an apology for being so aloof during the 2008 games, and that he didn't mean anything personal by it.
Rousey always speaks the truth and isn't afraid to say what's on her mind. Phelps reaching out to her would definitely go a long way to heal old wounds.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan and supporter of the sport of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
- Michael Phelps
- Ronda Rousey