Michael Phelps has inspired many throughout his Olympics journey, but possibly none greater than Austin Levingston, a fan of Phelps who has autism.
In a Facebook post, Phelps wrote about what an honor is was to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, along with Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles just days after he took home the 23rd gold medal of his career (making him the most decorated Olympian of all time). But what one fan commented inspired thousands.
In the comments, Levingston tells Phelps about his dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer, just like Phelps, as well as pursuing his education, with hopes of being the first in his family to graduate from college. The comment reads:
“Hello Micheal, my name is Austin and I am autistic. I know you may not care to read this but you are one of my biggest idols and I’ve been following you for a very long time. Right now, I am currently going to college and hoping to become the first person in my whole family to get a degree. I am also a swim competitor just like you and I’m hoping to swim in the Olympics just like you someday.”
Levingston also added a photo, showing side-by-side comparisons of him and Phelps, even remarking that people have come up to him to say how much they look alike. He ends his comment by congratulating Phelps on his wins and “making big history!!” The comment has earned more than 3,500 likes.
Many of the replies encouraged Levingston to reach for the stars, pursue his dream, keep swimming and maybe even one day meet his idol. One reply reads, “Austin, this is amazing! I hope you get a college degree and go the Olympics and win several gold medals! Austin, you would pass as Michael Phelps or his brother, if he had a brother! I hope all of yours dreams come true! I hope he gets your message and responds to you! God Bless you and Good Luck my friend!”
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Levingston expressed his sadness that Phelps had retired but explained that “nobody will ever beat him.” He even hopes that he would possibly come out of retirement at some point, just so he could have the chance to compete against him.
Phelps has not responded to the comment on Facebook and in the interview, Levingston said he was unsure as to whether he even saw it. Despite the uncertainty, Levingston is just happy to know that so many others appreciated the comment and encouraged him.