29th August 2008 at 01:00

"You'll never achieve anything," the teenage Michael Phelps was told by one of his teachers.

While it is fair to say the record-breaking Olympian has more than disproved this outrageous claim, it would be wrong to deny that he had a tough time at school.

With his prominent ears and a pronounced lisp, it wasn't just the teachers that gave him a rough ride. Phelps is more than happy to admit that he was bullied remorselessly in his youth. His ears were relentlessly flicked and his hat was repeatedly thrown out of the school bus.

When you throw into the mix the fact that he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and prescribed Ritalin, it is nothing short of astonishing that by the age of 23, Phelps had branded his name on the collective global conscience with eight Olympic golds medals for swimming.

Perhaps it is down to his school-teacher mum, Debbie Phelps, who - he never bores of telling people - believed in him even when he was being sent home from school after punching one of his bullies.

Certainly she supported him when, as a boy, he decided that he had "had enough of his medicine" and would sort out his problems himself. Getting over his phobia of putting his face under water was the next step on the road to glory.

So, watch out. If there is an ADHD child in your class with abnormally large feet, it may be wise to get on the phone to Lord Coe.

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