Phelps photo stirs memories
Dover woman recalls coaching swimming champion
By Andy Walter | Delaware State News | August 31, 2008
DOWNSTATE — Julia Gorman recognized the photo as soon as she saw it in People magazine.
It was of an 8-year-old Michael Phelps sitting on the side of the pool at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. But Gorman, who was standing behind Phleps at the time, had been cut out of the picture. Only her feet remained.
"When I saw it in People magazine I was like, ‘Wait, those are my feet,’" Gorman said with a laugh. "It was kind of funny."
Gorman, now a physical therapist in Dover, isn’t too upset that she missed a chance at sharing a tiny bit of Phelps’ international spotlight. Photo or not, she knows she played a small part in Phelps’ remarkable swimming career.
Phelps, of course, was the star of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, becoming the first athlete to win eight gold medals in the same Games.
But when Gorman knew Phelps, in 1993, he was just another youngster swimming at North Baltimore. She and Patty Stephens coached his age group.
"He was an active kid," said Gorman. "It was obvious he had a lot of talent. They have a great program over there.
"He definitely caught on to skills quite quickly and swam well. He certainly exhibited signs of being a great swimmer but there are so many factors in the future that could deter or improve that."
Gorman knows a little bit about what it takes to swim in the Olympics.
She was a nine-time national champion herself. Swimming for Florida in college, she won the 200-yard butterfly, the 200 individual medley and the 400 individual medley at the 1988 NCAA championships.
And one of her relay teammates was Dara Torres, who also made Olympic headlines by competing this summer at the age of 41, winning three silver medals.
In 1992, Gorman had a chance to make the U.S. Olympic team. But, with only the top two finishers qualifying. Gorman placed third in the 200 butterfly, leaving her as an alternate for the U.S. team.
Gorman, however, continues to be involved with swimming behind the scenes.
She and her husband, George Edelman, moved to Dover eight years ago and co-own Edelman Spine & Orthopaedic Physical Therapy.
With Edelman also a former competitive swimmer, the two have worked with the USA Swimming Sports Medicine Task Force to help prevent shoulder injuries.
For Gorman, watching Phelps pull off his historic feat made for a memorable week.
"After the first night I was like, ‘I’m going to be up until midnight every night this week aren’t I? And I was," said Gorman. "It was amazing. For the relay, my husband was asleep and I was yelling quite loudly. Fortunately he had the TV on.
"He (Phelps) was a fun kid to work with — like a lot of the kids in a lot of the sports programs. That was good. And he seems to be developing into a great gentleman. That’s good to see. ... He had this vision of changing our sport and that is phenomenal."