Phelps signs with new suit company

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Phelps signs with new suit company
Michael Phelps showed up to a Baltimore court Friday morning where he pled guilty to driving under the influence. Phelps was given a one-year suspended sentence and 18 months probation, meaning if he screws up in the next 18 months, he goes behind bars for a year. The Olympic hero arrived with his mom, sister and girlfriend, Miss California 2010 Nicole Johnson.
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps walks into a courthouse for a trial on drunken driving and other charges, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Baltimore. Documents show that the 29-year-old was leaving Baltimore's Horseshoe Casino Sept. 30 when he was pulled over for speeding and crossing the double yellow line on a highway. Police say Phelps registered a .14 per cent on a blood-alcohol test. The legal limit to drive is .08 per cent in Maryland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps walks into a courthouse for a trial on drunken driving and other charges, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Baltimore. Documents show that the 29-year-old was leaving Baltimore's Horseshoe Casino Sept. 30 when he was pulled over for speeding and crossing the double yellow line on a highway. Police say Phelps registered a .14 per cent on a blood-alcohol test. The legal limit to drive is .08 per cent in Maryland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
United States swimmer Michael Phelps dives off of the starting block during the men's 400-meter individual medley event during the 2012 Summer Olympics at the Aquatics Centre in London on Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Al Bello, Pool)
FILE - This Oct. 23, 2011 file photo shows U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps competing in the men's 100m butterfly heat at the FINA short course swimming World Cup in Berlin, Germany. After winning a record eight gold medals in Beijing, the 26-year-old American is back for his final big splash before retirement. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
US swimmer Michael Phelps prepares for a Men's 100 Meter Individual Medley heat at the Fina short course swimming World Cup in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps pauses after swimming 50 meters during an event of Special Olympics in Shanghai, China, Monday, Aug. 1, 2011. Phelps was appointed as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Michael Phelps of the U.S. spits water out after his men's 100m butterfly final at the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Gold Coast, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
IRVINE, CA - AUGUST 06: Michael Phelps reacts after his seventh place finish in the Men's 100 Meter Freestyle Final during the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships at the Woollett Aquatic Center on August 6, 2014 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The past few days have been extremely difficult.
I recognize that this is not my first lapse in judgment, and I am extremely disappointed with myself.
I’m going to take some time away to attend a program that will provide the help I need to better understand myself.
Swimming is a major part of my life, but right now I need to focus my attention on me as an individual,
and do the necessary work to learn from this experience and make better decisions in the future.
Former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps looks on during a Baltimore Orioles baseball spring training workout Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Sarasota, Fla. Phelps, a native of Baltimore who was in the area filming his Golf Channel show The Haney Project, took batting practice with the team. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Former U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps stands in the pool as he watches kids train at the Rocinha slum sports complexin Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, March 11, 2013. Phelps is in Rio to attend The Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps poses for photos on the red carpet upon his arrival to the Laureus World Sports Awards in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, March 11, 2013. Phelps is one of the nominees for Laureus World Sportsman of the Year. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps holds up his Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement trophy as he poses for pictures during the Laureus World Sports Awards in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SUBWAY RESTAURANTS - Former U.S. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps, right, and Brazilian soccer legend Pele, left, eat sandwiches at a SUBWAY restaurant, during a event organized by SUBWAY, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Nelson Antoine/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images)
Former U.S. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps, right, and Brazilian soccer legend Pele answer questions in a press conference at a SUBWAY restaurant, during a event organized by SUBWAY, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Nelson Antoine/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images)
Former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps waits to hit in the batting cage during a Baltimore Orioles baseball spring training workout Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Sarasota, Fla. Phelps, a native of Baltimore who was in the area filming his Golf Channel show The Haney Project, took batting practice with the team. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps hits in the batting cage during a Baltimore Orioles baseball spring training workout Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Sarasota, Fla. Phelps, a native of Baltimore who was in the area filming his Golf Channel show The Haney Project, took batting practice with the team. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, left, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps react as members of the Ravens take the field before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, left, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps hug before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. The Ravens won 44-13. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Chad Le Ros, Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin poses at OMEGA House presents Olympic Swimmers Attend at OMEGA House on Tuesday August 07, 2012 in London. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)
Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin poses at OMEGA House presents Olympic Swimmers Attend at OMEGA House on Tuesday August 07, 2012 in London. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)
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BALTIMORE (AP) - Michael Phelps has been linked with Speedo throughout his swimming career, most notably collecting a $1 million bonus after he won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games.

Now, as he comes back from retirement, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history will have a different look.

Phelps is announcing Tuesday that he has signed a deal with Aqua Sphere, a company that has extensive experience with triathlons and recreational swimming but will be designing a racing suit for the first time.

Phelps Signs With New Suit Company

"Throughout my career, I've been able to do a lot of things with Speedo. The relationship was great," Phelps told The Associated Press. "But we came to a point where we had an opportunity to really change the sport and grow the sport even more."

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, will be working with Aqua Sphere on a range of products beyond racing suits, hoping to lure more kids into swimming and reduce the number of drowning deaths.

The deal is a huge coup for Aqua Sphere, which is now represented by the winningest athlete in Olympics history as it tries to carve out a niche alongside more established swimsuit companies such as Arena, Speedo and Tyr.

Phelps had been sponsored by Speedo since he was 16, and starred at Beijing in a high-tech suit the company designed with help from NASA. The deal ran out at the end of last year.

After receiving offers from all the major companies, the 29-year-old was intrigued by the idea of going with a firm that would give him and Bowman substantial input into the design of everything from racing suits to products that could be used at the grass-roots level.

"It's all hand-in-hand with not only my goal to grow the sport of swimming, but to help kids live healthy and active lifestyles and learn to swim," Phelps said. "It starts from there."

Don Rockwell, the CEO of Aqua Sphere, said his company began talking with Phelps' representatives after learning the deal with Speedo was ending. At the time, they weren't sure he would actually return as a competitor. Of course, there were no complaints when he announced his return in April.

Now Aqua Sphere will have one of its suits on a swimmer with 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall.

"Once we heard he was coming out of retirement, we stayed on the same track," Rockwell said. "But this is a big opportunity for us."

Under FINA guidelines, any new suits must be approved by the governing body and can be worn in competition starting Jan. 1. Even with that relatively short time frame, Aqua Sphere is confident about designing a suit that Phelps will be comfortable in and allows him to go just as fast as he would in the Arena suit he's been wearing since returning to competition.

"To be able to partner with the foremost experts, with the best competitive swimmer of all time and one of the most technical swim coaches to help us in that process, that alleviates any sort of pressure in terms of developing this new product," said Todd Mitchell, who manages the swim business line for Aqua Sphere.

Last week in Baltimore, Phelps and Bowman held their first extensive talks with Aqua Sphere's engineers and designers, providing their feedback on products that are merely prototypes at the moment. There is still work to do before there's a suit, cap and goggles that Phelps will be ready to wear in competition, but they say the initial tests were encouraging.

Phelps said the suit "felt great" and he provided suggestions on ways to modify the goggles to meet his needs, especially the range of vision it provides.

"It's really just an investment of our time," Bowman said. "I think they have all the wherewithal and infrastructure to make it happen. It's really exciting for us to actually be able to create some things whereas normally it's just something where we pick out something and use it. Now, we can tailor and make some things to the way we'd like swimming to go, the things that we think are important."

Terms of the contract were not released, but it runs through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Phelps has made no commitment to swimming past the Rio Games in two years, though both sides insist this is a long-term relationship that will carry on beyond his time in the water.

"The barrier to getting into the sport and the barrier to Michael's efforts to grow the sport relate directly to product," said Phelps' agent, Peter Carlisle. "The motivation is there for both partners to really change the approach that's been taken, to take a much more inclusive approach to it. We think a big difference can be made."

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