Star-Spangled Swimmer: Michael Phelps to Carry U.S. Flag at Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony
Matt Lauer announced on the Today show Wednesday morning that Phelps will be carrying the American flag during the opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics Friday at the iconic Maracana Stadium.
Phelps told Lauer that the honor gave him “The biggest smile I’ve had on my face in a really long time.”
He added: “Obviously a huge honor and something I’m looking forward to. The opportunity that I have is a dream come true and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Phelps received the distinction after his fellow American Olympians voted to have him carry Old Glory into the ceremony.
The 22-time medalist is the first American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympics. The Maryland native made history during the 2008 Beijing Olympics by winning gold in eight events.
Phelps said in a statement on TeamUSA.org, each of the Olympics he has participated in mean so much to him, however, carrying the flag in what could be his final games is unprecedented.
“For Sydney, I just wanted to make the team. For Athens, I wanted to win gold for my country. For Beijing, I wanted to do something nobody else had done. In London, I wanted to make history. And now, I want to walk in the Opening Ceremony, take it all in, represent America in the best possible way and make my family proud. This time around, it's about so much more than medals,” he said.