Parents can attest that it's something of a mixed blessing to have a child who is described as Cindy Poteet described the son of her North Harford Middle School home economics teacher: "He was a very active child, very active."
The home economics teacher in question is Debbie Phelps and the "very active child" has since grown into the most active gatherer of Olympic medals the world has ever known. These days just about any community that can claim a six degrees of separation type connection to Michael Phelps is apt to do so, and with good reason. As was the case four years ago, Phelps is a glorious example of the kind of athletic excellence that can be achieved in the United States. It appeared he wasn't quite ready for the bright spotlight that would be shown on him after his triumph in the 2008 Olympics, but he overcame something of a stumble and managed a fairly dominating performance in the pool at the London Olympics. In a way, to be able to remain focused on a repeat multi-medal performance makes this year's showing all the more impressive.
Certainly it is an accomplishment all of us in the U.S. can take pride in. In a way, that's what the Olympics are for. In some cases, the closest connection will be that Michael Phelps and his family stopped for a meal at a local restaurant, but here in Harford County, there's a bit more. That's because Michael Phelps was a preschool student at the Children's Center of North Harford and played on the tire swing there, and his family lived in the county when the future Olympian was a boy.
Knowing this brings into sharper focus the reality that heroes like Phelps, or fellow athleteCal Ripken Jr., or prominent musicians like Cyrus Chestnut, a North Harford High grad, while talented and driven, share the same kinds of backgrounds as the rest of us.