He also faces huge sponsor deals – such as $50 million from Nike, alone

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 18, 2008 08:30 AM

Michael Phelps said he was happily anticipating downtime Monday, after winning his record eighth gold medal Sunday in the 4×100 medley relay – making him the single most-winning athlete in any one Olympiad.

“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to,” the 23-year-old “Baltimore Bullet” told Monday’s Today show, “is getting back, seeing my dog, seeing my cars and setting up my new house.”

But others, intent on keeping Phelps busy, see even more gold in the swimmer’s future – of the kind that has lined the jaw-dropping bank accounts of such sports superstars as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

“He’s a world legend now,” Stephen Urquhart, CEO of Swiss watchmaker Omega Ltd. – for whom Phelps is already a commercial poster boy – tells the Wall Street Journal.

Phelps is also remaining in Beijing through the week to appear on behalf of sponsors Hilton Hotels Corp and Visa credit cards. He’ll then head to Britain for a media tour to promote the 2012 London Olympics.

But the money is already rolling in. Phelps was promised $1 million by Speedo once he matched the 1972 Mark Spitz record with seven gold medals.

Millions from Nike Alone

“Michael Phelps would be worth $40 million or $50 million to Nike,” sports-management instructor Hoard Bloom tells the Journal. “He could literally allow them to launch a massive swimwear company, and I think you are going to see an incredible bidding war for him.” (Nike declined comment.)

By contrast, in the early ’70s, Spitz earned an estimated $5 million from corporate endorsements – considered impressive at the time. New York’s Daily News estimates he made 15 cents a copy (for $45,000) for his signature poster, of his standing with his medals in only his Speedo.

(Based in Southern California today, Spitz, 59, is a broker, financial adviser and motivational speaker.)

For his part, Phelps says his heart is still in the pool. “My whole goal is to change the sport of swimming in a positive way,” The New York Times quotes him as saying. “I think it can go even farther. That’s where I hope to take it.”

And, as far as Beijing is concerned, “Everything is done,” Phelps told Today‘s Matt Lauer. “I did it, and it was fun.”

• Seven-time gold medalist Mark Spitz calls Michael Phelps ‘the greatest’
• After winning gold in ’72, Spitz raked in the endorsement deals
See other Olympians on the cover of PEOPLE