Michael Phelps, the 16-year-old swimming sensation from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, is turning professional. Phelps has signed an endorsement deal with Speedo, the Los Angeles-based suit manufacturer that outfits many of the world's top swimmers.
"This is a very special opportunity for Michael," said Bob Bowman, his coach at the NBAC. "It will allow him to pursue his education and train in a way that will allow him to be a world-class athlete."
Phelps is believed to be the youngest American male swimmer to turn pro.
Bowman would not discuss financial specifics of the deal, other than to say that Speedo will pay for Phelps' college education. Phelps was not available to comment, but in July he told The Sun that he wanted to renounce his collegiate eligibility and continue his training at NBAC, so as not to disrupt his preparation for the 2004 Olympics.
Phelps is a junior at Towson High, and he would enter college in the fall of 2003. By then, his training will be focused on the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece, where he is expected to be among the nation's most publicized athletes.