With his second gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps is a man who can’t be ignored.
But, for parents who have grown accustomed to seeing their children compete in sport, this is a strange time to be a father.
Michael Phelps returned to the track in August for the first time since being hospitalized with a broken ankle in August 2012, and has been out of the spotlight since.
His absence has left some parents wondering how their children are doing.
Many of the parents I spoke to are not surprised, given that he is a very competitive and competitive individual.
But when I asked them about how the family felt after hearing of his return, they seemed surprised by the news.
“I thought it was just a coincidence,” one father said.
Another parent told me that her son was a very positive, upbeat person.
“He’s a good guy, he doesn’t make mistakes,” she said.
And, a third father said he was disappointed by the return.
“We had to let him go because he wasn’t a good father,” he said.
“It was a little bit weird that he didn’t come back, but he was out of a job,” another parent said.
“I guess he felt like he needed to be out there, he wanted to do it.”
For most parents, this was the first of many events to come with Michael Phelps returning.
As we talked, I asked parents if they would still be attending the track.
Some said yes, some said no.
But a majority said they would be back for Michael Phelps and would have nothing else to do.
And with him in attendance, there was a sense of excitement.
“He’s going to be in the crowd for the track, he’ll be in there cheering for the athletes,” one parent said, while another parent put it more succinctly.
“There’s no other way to put it,” another father said of the Olympics.
The Phelps family has not responded to my requests for comment.
Follow me on Twitter @KarenHarkerESPN