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Aqua Man

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After winning six gold and two bronze Olympic medals in Athens last summer, swimming phenom Michael Phelps, 19, has moved to Ann Arbor, where he’ll begin classes at the University of Michigan in January. He talked about the ups and downs of his year with PEOPLE correspondent Melody Simmons.

What has your life been like since the Olympics?

It’s been a whirlwind tour—pretty much nonstop, city to city. Sort of traveling the country, meeting a whole bunch of people and really just having fun.

What do you expect out of college?

I want to study sports management or sports marketing. I’ll take classes and hopefully get back into training. I’ll be swimming with Bob Bowman [his longtime coach who is now head swimming coach at the University of Michigan].

Where are your medals?

I haven’t seen them since the Olympics. My agent has them. I don’t know where they are. He said, “Let me hold on to them.” And I said okay. I trust him.

On Nov. 4 you were arrested for drunk driving on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Your trial date is set for Dec. 29. How do you reconcile your status as a role model with your drunk-driving arrest?

I’ve made a mistake and it’s something I’m going to have to live with now. I want to reach out as much as I can to help as many kids as I can to get the message out not to drink and drive. It’s unacceptable and just flat-out wrong. It’s a big learning experience, and I want to move forward from here. The hardest thing is knowing the people I have let down.