Let’s keep counting them abs. JK, but really.
Yesterday, Michael Phelps became the only US male to qualify for a whopping five Olympics — the first as a 15-year-old in Sydney and now as a 31-year-old in Rio de Janeiro.
But unlike most other superstar athletes, Phelps has largely managed to swim clean the blemishes that have often ruined careers — a leaked photo showing him inhaling cannabis from a bong and an arrest for driving under the influence, among others. Sure, it led to suspensions and losses of funding, but Phelps always bounced back, preternaturally larger than life — and his fans were waiting, raring to go.
Labelling him the greatest swimmer in the world — actually, make that “of all time” — is easy because there’s a sense of detachment from the title. Watching him, on the other hand, gives you perpetual goosebumps. Because that’s what Phelps is: A swimmer’s swimmer. He has none of the almost-audacious confidence of Ryan Lochte or Ian Thorpe. And on the last of his historic 8-gold-medal Beijing rampage, he said, “I don’t even know what to feel right now. There are so many emotions going through my head and so much excitement. I kind of just want to see my mom.” (We swooned, hard.)
Rather than retreat into his bubble of material achievements, Phelps has also been famously outspoken about the trials of the sport and the sacrifices it demands. Being one of the greatest athletes in the world comes at a steep price — one that is conveyed in true poetic form in his ad for Under Armour’s Rule Yourself campaign.
Not everything is always peachy in Phelps’ world, and he has no problem letting us know.
Then, there’s his butterfly: an agile combination of brute strength and pure grace that catapults him across the pool as if drag, resistance, and all the other pesky irritants swimmers face don’t apply to him. True enough, it was this stroke that earned him his spot in his 5th Olympic Games. Watch it below.
What’s there to not love? South America, here comes #TeamPhelps
And just cause we all need some sugar in life:
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