WAYNE DREHS' profile of Michael Phelps is the story of the most decorated Olympic champion of all time -- a man whose success in the pool created challenges for him outside it. Phelps is expected to make the U.S. team for Rio 2016, which would make him the first American male swimmer to compete in five Olympics. But he knows he needs to put his nightmares behind him and embrace life on dry land. Here are five things to know about Phelps:
1. Michael Phelps was so distraught two years ago, struggling to figure out who he was outside the pool, that he drank heavily and wondered whether his life was worth living. "I thought the world would just be better off without me," he said. "I figured that was the best thing to do -- just end my life."
2. Phelps and his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, have had had a complicated and, at times, volatile relationship -- a reality they managed to keep secret outside of Phelps' innermost circle. Stories of their arguments are legendary. At the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Baltimore, where Phelps trained, there's still a massive dent in a door frame, courtesy of Bowman's right foot after one of their fights. Bowman and Phelps once both peeled out of the Meadowbrook parking lot in a rage, middle fingers fully extended.
3. Phelps hates snakes. He hates snakes so much that he's had nightmares about them, and told family and friends to never even say the word "snake" around him.
4. Last October, Phelps entered The Meadows, a psychological trauma and addiction treatment center in Arizona, after his second DUI in 10 years. Fellow patients nicknamed him "Preacher Mike" because he began each day by reading to them from "The Purpose Driven Life," a book by Christian author Rick Warren given to Phelps by former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and friend Ray Lewis.
5. Phelps would never hold someone else's baby -- not a family member's, not a friend's, it doesn't matter. People would try to hand him their baby and ask for a photo, but he always said no. He wanted the first baby he pressed his skin against to be his own. He and his fiancée, Nicole Johnson, welcomed Boomer Robert Phelps on May 5.