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BEIJING — Michael Phelps is ready for his close-up.
The 14-time gold medalist said Monday that he hopes his success will translate into broader exposure for swimming, with agent Peter Carlisle adding that he will consider film and TV offers “for the good of the sport.”
Carlisle said the swimmer has been approached by Hollywood agencies here in Beijing, but offered nothing firmer than that.
“We’re interested in anything that will help bring more context and relevance to the sport of swimming for a broader audience,” Carlisle said.
Speaking at a press conference for his global sponsor Visa’s new ad campaign, Phelps faced his new ultra-celebrity with an easy smile, answering many questions with a humble, “I have no idea what to say.”
On Sunday, the 23-year-old Baltimore native broke Mark Spitz’s 1972 record by winning the most golds in a single Olympics — a feat that helped boost NBC’s audience and ratings. Phelps’ BlackBerry blew up after the win — with 5,000 messages — and President Bush called to congratulate him.
“I’m living a dream,” was a common Phelps refrain.
The pressure of celebrity had begun before the much-expected eighth gold medal. Phelps’ swimming relay teammates warned him Sunday morning that there were other sports icons in the audience.
“All the guys were saying, ‘LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) are here, we can’t lose in front of them,” Phelps said, adding that of all the people he now hoped to be able to meet, Michael Jordan topped the list.
“What he did in the sport of basketball is what I’m trying to do in the sport of swimming,” Phelps said.
Next up for Phelps is a trip to England, where he will be the face of Visa at the IOC’s handover ceremony to the 2012 London Olympics. The U.K. trip means he’ll miss the Beijing closing ceremony Sunday, said Michael Lynch, Visa’s head of global sponsorship marketing.
Left behind in Beijing will be the new Phelps ad campaign, visible here on branded ATMs at Olympic venues and on out-of-home ads sprouting up across town. The campaign will go global as well a feature heavily on NBC for the remainder of the Games.
Hopeful the sponsorship will help the sport at large, Phelps said: “I think getting swimming onto TV more regularly would be great. We could see it more in network primetime.”
Octagon’s Carlisle declined to put a value on the swimmer’s contract with Visa.
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