ORLANDO—Fourteen-time Olympic gold medalist and SeaWorld main attraction Michael Phelps returned to his seven-million-gallon water tank Wednesday to resume his normal schedule of performing in six shows a day for marine park crowds every day of the week.
Phelps, the 6'4", 200-pound aquatic mammal, and the first ever SeaWorld swimmer to be raised in captivity by foster swimmers (Mark Spitz and Dara Torres), was recaptured by trainer Bob Bowman in a hoop net baited with an entire Dutch apple pie following Phelps' final Olympic event last Sunday. Phelps was then tethered to the rudder of a container ship bound for St. Petersburg, guided down local waterways, and introduced back into his home habitat, the tank in SeaWorld's 5,500 seat stadium, known to park officials and visitors alike as "Phelps' Happy Harbor."
"Michael seemed really excited to be back," said Bowman, adding that the male swimmer became playful upon entering his tank, breaching the water and sounding repeatedly. "He just started swimming freestyle and backstroke, and only stopped to slide belly first onto the tank's platform so he could be fed dozens of fried egg sandwiches."
"He fell asleep at the surface of the water around midnight," Bowman added.
Though Bowman plans on continuing the long-running aquatic show "Michael, The Yankee Doodle Swim Team Captain," in which Phelps was performing prior to leaving for Beijing, Bowman said he and Phelps would begin working on an all-new production, which will debut in September with the title "Champion!" Bowman has promised this show would be the most ambitious program in the history of Olympic swimmer sea spectacles.
Bowman says one stunt called the "Flying Medal" will begin with Phelps' 14 gold medals being suspended above the water. Phelps will then enter the stadium butterfly-stroking at full speed, coursing along the surface, and with every breach of the water, placing his head through the hoop of one medal after another. If Phelps is wearing all 14 medals at the end of the stunt, Bowman said, the swimmer will be rewarded with a whole pizza and a pound of cooked enriched pasta.