Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson: How Swimming Legend Met His Beauty Queen Wife

Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates from Your Next Shoes. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for more details.

In sports, Michael Phelps shines bright as an Olympic legend. But he found something more precious beyond medals – his wife, Nicole Johnson.

Their love story took a winding path, marked by highs and lows before Michael realized that Nicole was the one he had been seeking all along.

What’s fascinating is that Michael’s romantic journey both began and ended with Nicole. Before tying the knot, he was linked with various women, from pageant winners to models.

Beauty queen Nicole Johnson and competitive swimmer Michael Phelps at the 23rd Annual Harold & Carole Pump Foundation Gala in Los Angels on August 19, 2023Beauty queen Nicole Johnson and competitive swimmer Michael Phelps at the 23rd Annual Harold & Carole Pump Foundation Gala in Los Angels on August 19, 2023 (Credit: Abaca Press / INSTARimages)

Let’s explore how Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson overcame challenges in their relationship, reminding us that real love finds its way even amidst fame.

Michael Phelps: A Dive Into the Life of a Legendary Swimmer

Standing tall at an impressive 6 feet and 4 inches (193 cm), Michael Phelps, born on June 30, 1985, is a former competitive swimmer from Baltimore, Maryland.

The most decorated Olympian of all time, Phelps’ net worth is estimated to be $100 million. He earned most of his money through endorsement deals with companies such as Speedo, Visa, and Omega. Michael Fred Phelps II has also appeared in several commercials and television shows.

Raised in Towson’s Rodgers Forge neighborhood, he attended Rodgers Forge Elementary, Dumbarton Middle School, and Towson High School.

As the youngest of three children, his mother, Deborah Sue “Debbie” Phelps, was a middle school principal, while his father, Michael Fred Phelps, was a retired Maryland State Trooper with a football background.

Michael Phelps, pictured competing in the 100m butterfly event during 2012 London Olympic Games, started swimming at 7 years oldMichael Phelps, pictured competing in the 100m butterfly event during 2012 London Olympic Games, started swimming at 7 years old (Credit: JONATHAN HORDLE / startraksphoto)

Michael started his swimming journey at age seven, inspired by his sisters and a need for an energy outlet. Over time, his love for the sport grew.

By age 10, he already held a national record in the 100-meter butterfly for his age group. Under the guidance of coach Bob Bowman, he trained at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, setting numerous age group records.

His career achievements are tremendous. With a staggering 28 medals, Michael Phelps is the most successful and decorated Olympian in history.

He holds records for Olympic gold medals (23), Olympic gold medals in individual events (13), and Olympic medals in individual events (16). Michael shattered records at the 2008 Beijing Games by securing eight gold medals.

Michael Phelps won five gold medals and one silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de JaneiroMichael Phelps won five gold medals and one silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (Credit: Lionel Hahn / AbacaUSA / startraksphoto)

Michael’s legacy extends beyond the Olympics. He held multiple long course world records and amassed 82 major international long course competition medals.

His influence transcended the pool, and he was recognized as the World Swimmer of the Year eight times and the American Swimmer of the Year eleven times. In 2008, he launched the Michael Phelps Foundation to promote swimming and healthier lifestyles.

After retiring following the 2012 Olympics, Michael returned in April 2014 and continued to make waves until his second retirement in 2016. He became widely hailed as the greatest swimmer and one of the finest athletes ever.

Michael Phelps competes during the men's 200m butterfly qualifications at The FINA World Swimming Championships in Rome, Italy on July 28, 2009Michael Phelps competes during the men’s 200m butterfly qualifications at The FINA World Swimming Championships in Rome, Italy on July 28, 2009 (Credit: INFevents)

Meet Nicole Johnson: Model, Beauty Queen, and More

Born on July 12, 1985, Nicole Johnson Phelps is an American model and beauty queen who towers 5 feet and 7 inches (170 cm).

The 38-year-old was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and she spent her early life in Pennsylvania before settling in Westlake Village, California. Her mom, Annette, is a science teacher, and her dad, Richard, is a pharmaceutical sales manager.

Completing her education at Westlake High School in 2003, Nicole continued her studies at the University of Southern California, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a focus on sports and entertainment in 2007.

Nicole Johnson won the Miss California 2010 title and went on to compete in the Miss USA 2010 pageant where she placed ninthNicole Johnson won the Miss California 2010 title and went on to compete in the Miss USA 2010 pageant where she placed ninth (Credit: Norman Scott / startraksphoto)

Her journey in the world of pageants began when she was 17. Spotting an advertisement for Miss California Teenager, she aimed to win the scholarship prize to aid her transfer from Moorpark College to the University of Southern California. Among 304 participants, she secured first runner-up.

Persisting in her pageant journey, Nicole’s dedication paid off at age 24 when she clinched the title of Miss California USA 2010. Her pageant trail continued at Miss USA 2010, where she secured the ninth position and was considered a top contender.

After her pageant run, she employed her promotion skills as an ambassador for the Miss Universe organization and worked in marketing at a Mercedes-Benz dealership.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nicole Michele Phelps (@mrs.nicolephelps)

Notably, she became an ambassador for the Michael Phelps Foundation in 2015, promoting water safety, wellness, and overall health.

Away from the spotlight, Nicole is deeply engaged in an active lifestyle. She shares her love for golf, hiking, and pickleball, often seen alongside her husband. Weightlifting is another passion she credits Michael for inspiring her to pursue, recognizing the value of mental and physical health.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nicole Michele Phelps (@mrs.nicolephelps)

How Did Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson Meet?

In 2007, Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson crossed paths at the ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) Awards.

Michael was slated to present an award alongside race car driver Danica Patrick. Meanwhile, Nicole was working as an athlete escort for ESPN at the time, and she was assigned to be Michael’s guide at the event.

Although it might sound like fate, it wasn’t Nicole’s initial plan. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight at the ESPY Awards in July 2017, Michael recalled, “My wife was my escort here 10 years ago, [when] she was working with ESPN. It’s funny, she always tells the story like, ‘I wanted somebody different,’ and I was like, ‘Oh thanks honey, really, really like that.’”

Nicole Johnson and Michael Phelps, pictured at the 2017 ESPYS, met at the 2007 ESPYS, where Phelps presented an award and Johnson worked as an athlete escort for ESPNNicole Johnson and Michael Phelps, pictured at the 2017 ESPYS, met at the 2007 ESPYS, where Phelps presented an award and Johnson worked as an athlete escort for ESPN (Credit: Sara De Boer / startraksphoto)

Nicole had her sights set on a different direction back then, wanting to become a Formula One racing correspondent. In an interview with the New York Times in August 2016, Nicole admitted, “I really wanted to escort Travis Pastrana,” referring to the motorsports and action sports star.

Despite the initial hesitations and different preferences, Michael and Nicole found common ground swiftly. Nicole later said, “Michael and I just completely hit it off.”

The On-and-Off Phase of Their Relationship

After their initial meeting, Michael and Nicole began dating in 2009 and quickly became a topic of conversation. However, their relationship had its ups and downs, with moments of separation and reconnection.

Following the 2012 London Olympics, they briefly parted ways again, acknowledging that they both needed time to grow and discover themselves.

Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson, pictured at the 2017 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards, began dating in 2009 but separated in 2012 as they both needed time to grow and discover themselvesMichael Phelps and Nicole Johnson, pictured at the 2017 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards, began dating in 2009 but separated in 2012 as they both needed time to grow and discover themselves (Credit: The Photo Access / Cover Images)

In an interview with Cosmopolitan in August 2016, Nicole shared her thoughts on the breakup. She attributed the couple’s separation to “bad timing.”

She told the outlet, “Michael and I both know that had we tried to have a child and get married in the previous time we were together, it probably would not have ended pretty.”

Nicole added, “We both had a lot of growing up to do. We both had a lot of learning about ourselves to do. I don’t think you can be in a good relationship unless you love yourself to the fullest and you want to help the other person become a better person. We definitely needed that time apart to recognize that about ourselves and to appreciate one another.”

Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson, pictured at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, reconciled years later and got engaged in February 2015Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson, pictured at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, reconciled years later and got engaged in February 2015 (Credit: Bill Davila / startraksphoto)

Naturally, a breakup can bring about some negative feelings, and Nicole admitted, “There definitely were times, and I think Michael would say the same thing, where I hated him. We were at odds at times. Even when I loathed him, there were still times when I was like, ‘God, I wish I was with him.’”

In 2014, Michael decided to take a chance. He sent a heartfelt text to Nicole, declaring his love for her.

During an interview with USA Today in April 2015, he confessed, “I never wanted to have a, ‘What if?’ I just told her exactly how I felt. I was like, as long as you can tell her that, I can go through my life and be happy. Whatever happens, happens. Obviously we worked through some things. There’s nobody in the world I would rather be with.”

Although Nicole was in a different relationship, it ended a few weeks later. After that, she started talking to Michael again, and they eventually got back together.

Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson said that there is no one they would rather be with than each otherMichael Phelps and Nicole Johnson said that there is no one they would rather be with than each other (Credit: Eliot Blondet / ABACA / INSTARimages)

In July 2022, Nicole told Brides magazine, “It always came back to my question of ‘What if?’ with Michael. I could never see myself with anyone else. There’s nobody else that gets me the way that Michael does.”

Nicole and Michael’s Three Wedding Ceremonies

By February 2015, Michael and Nicole had taken a big step – they were engaged and ready to build their future together. In their journey of love, the couple celebrated their union not just once but three times, making their path to marriage unique and unforgettable.

In May 2016, their plans for a post-Rio Olympics wedding took an earlier turn due to their newborn son, Boomer Robert Phelps.

Debbie Phelps and Nicole Johnson with newborn son, Boomer Robert, at Michael Phelps' swimming competition at the 2016 Rio Olympic GamesDebbie Phelps and Nicole Johnson with newborn son, Boomer Robert, at Michael Phelps’ swimming competition at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games (Credit: Lionel Hahn / Abaca / startraksphoto)

On June 13, 2016, the couple’s bond was sealed in a secret marriage in a private backyard ceremony in Paradise Valley. Surrounded by close friends and family and officiated by Michael’s agent, Peter Carlisle, they exchanged vows, marking the start of their married life.

In the same interview with Brides magazine, Nicole shared that they chose to marry in June to enable her legal name change. This decision aimed to simplify their international travel plans for the 2016 Rio Olympics with their son.

She said, “I kept hearing stories about different last names and children and traveling, so we felt it best to change my last name. Boomer’s last name is Phelps legally, and we felt like it would make it easier. And I actually wound up running into issues in Canada anyway! But no one outside of our families knew.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nicole Michele Phelps (@mrs.nicolephelps)

However, Nicole ensured to remember the moment with a simple Instagram post featuring her, Michael, and Boomer dressed casually. She penned in the caption, “Such a memorable night with my lil fambam 😍💖 boomer obviously didn’t want to hold still🙈.”

A few months later, on October 29, 2016, a grand celebration unfolded in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This time, 50 of their closest friends and family joined them for an intimate, formal ceremony. Their son, Boomer, played an adorable role as the ring bearer.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nicole Michele Phelps (@mrs.nicolephelps)

After the memorable event, the couple posted beautiful pictures from their beachside wedding. Nicole looked stunning in a custom Julie Vino dress, and she captioned her post with, “Truly the happiest day of my life.”

Before the year ended, Nicole and Michael decided to finish 2016 with a bang. The couple held their third wedding on New Year’s Eve at the Waldorf Astoria Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

This 1920s-themed extravaganza brought together even more loved ones for a night of festivities, food, dancing, and joy.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Elizabeth Beisel (@ebeisel34)

One of the guests, Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel, shared a snapshot from the gathering on Instagram alongside Nicole and Michael with another friend, Allison Schmitt, writing in the post, “New year, old sports. 🥂✨”

The Couple’s Household Full of Boys

On May 5, 2016, just before the Rio Olympics, Nicole and Michael welcomed their first son, Boomer, whose spirited presence on the sidelines became a heartwarming addition to the monumental event.

Their family grew further on Feb. 12, 2018, with the arrival of their second son, Beckett Richard. And a year later, on September 9, 2019, Maverick Nicholas completed their family, making them a joyful group of five.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nicole Michele Phelps (@mrs.nicolephelps)

With a household full of boys, the couple finds immense happiness, and Nicole embraces her role as the “queen of the household.”

In November 2019, Michael shared with PEOPLE, “I think Nicole said something along the lines of, like, ‘I’m so lucky to have a house full of boys and no girls,’ and Boomer looked at her and said, ‘Mommy, you’re the girl in our house.’ So we’ve been saying that and it’s true, she’s the queen.”

He added, “She’s the queen of the household and she’s the only lady in there, so she likes it, I think. She said she enjoys it.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nicole Michele Phelps (@mrs.nicolephelps)

Filed Under: Celebrities