Phelps back in China to boost carmaker

Sports Digest

January 12, 2009


The global economic slump has affected China's car market. But Mazda is counting on swimming phenom Michael Phelps to rev up the carmaker's bottom line. The Baltimore resident is back in Beijing - where he made Olympic history - to do TV commercials for Mazda, which is reported to be paying him more than $1 million to endorse the brand in China. It's believed to be the largest single sponsorship deal for a foreign celebrity in the country. Mazda vice president Yu Hongjiang said he was certain Phelps would help sell cars in China's growing car market. "We have very strong confidence in him," Yu said. "But there is no doubt this will be successful. ... Currently in China, nobody has the reputation that Phelps has." Besides filming commercials and doing photo shoots, Phelps is also slated to return to the Water Cube - where he won a record eight gold medals during the August Games - before he leaves China. "Hopefully I'll get a few workouts in before I go home," he said. "And then once I get back home it's time to get back in the water and really start to train for the next four years." He's expected to resume serious training before the month ends and is likely to work on some new events heading into this summer's world championships in Rome. Phelps said returning to China stirred emotions. "Driving around today on the roads - sort of seeing some landmarks I saw - really just brings back more and more memories," he said.

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