Michael Phelps may have come in second in the 200m butterfly semifinals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio on Monday, but he won the gold medal in viral moments.
Prior to the race, Phelps was caught on camera by NBC in an incredibly focused position. The decorated swimmer had a hood on his head, and he kept his focus as he stared straight ahead. Not even South African rival Chad Le Clos could distract him:
This is absolutely amazing TV from Phelps pic.twitter.com/16Rp7kEfuV
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) August 9, 2016
Phelps’ amazing focus was not lost on TV viewers. A great screenshot of Phelps soon began making the rounds on social media, leading to a wonderful meme.
Take a look at some of the best tweets below:
The Olympics can be very taxing for athletes. Swimmers can compete in a race that finishes late one night, then have a quick turnaround in order to compete again the next day.
Michael Phelps had to deal with that on Sunday and Monday, and his solution? Sleep and a whole lot of pasta.
“I think I had a pound of pasta and spaghetti,” Phelps said, via Beth Harris of the Associated Press. “And I’m not a spaghetti fan but I forced myself to eat it.”
Phelps won gold as part of the U.S. 4×100-meter freestyle relay team on Sunday night, but had to be back in the pool Monday afternoon for 200 butterfly qualifiers. He didn’t even get to bed until 3 a.m., and had to catch an 11 a.m. bus for the next events.
The Olympics aren’t exactly a vacation. With obligations like this, you can understand why Phelps saw fit to duck out early during the opening ceremonies.
USA flag bearer Michael Phelps will reportedly leave Friday’s opening ceremony early.
USA Today’s Christine Brennan reported Friday that NBC staffers will transport Phelps back to the Olympic village before the ceremony ends, despite Phelps’s responsibility as flag bearer.
It is not unprecedented for athletes to skip the ceremony entirely, particularly people like swimmers who have to compete the day after the ceremony. Phelps himself has not attended any of the previous opening ceremonies for that reason. This year, he is not due to compete until Sunday, so the notion of staying on his feet for hours would not be conducive to success.
It is a bit more rare for a flag bearer to duck out early — Phelps will be the first American flag bearer to do so — but it’s a unique situation. He is the star American athlete, and he’s participating in what will almost certainly be his final Olympics. He was never going to get the chance to do this again, so a compromise solution makes sense. Plus, Phelps barely needed to prepare for London. He’ll probably be fine here.
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever as he has won 22 medals over three Olympiads. Phelps won five golds and six medals at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens; a whopping eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing; and he pulled in four golds and two silvers at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Though most athletes would be ecstatic about winning six medals — including four golds — at an Olympiad, London was considered a down Olympics for Phelps. Yet the Baltimore born swimmer says he won those six medals in London without even preparing.
“In my eyes London wasn’t that great. I didn’t prepare for it,” Phelps said in an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas. “Prior to London, I hated [swimming/training]. I wanted nothing to do with the sport. I was pushing so many people away. I just wanted it to be over.”
What Phelps said next will probably drive most swimmers crazy.
“I basically [won six medals] off of pure talent. I did very, very minimal work. The last year leading into London I worked pretty hard, but the other three years I just joked around. I would miss a week or two weeks here or there and I didn’t care. That was the bottom of everything I had in reserve.
“I almost won the 200 fly without any training.”
Can you imagine a swimmer who worked and trained hard almost every day for three or four years being beaten out by a guy who says he barely prepared? That’s what it’s like going up against Phelps.
But the news only gets worse for Phelps’ competition in Rio; the swimmer says he’s at his best entering these Summer Games.
“This time around I wanted to do it the right way and this was the only way I was going to come back. I don’t think I’ve ever competed at 100 percent,” Phelps told Costas.
In comparing himself at his current state to when he was younger, Phelps says he believes he is now mentally and physically stronger than he ever has been. That new mental toughness did not come without a price though, as Phelps did encounter some legal trouble a few years ago.
Michael Phelps currently has 22 Olympic medals to his name. After Wednesday’s U.S. Olympic trials, he will have the opportunity to add to his impressive total.
Phelps won the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1:54.84, finishing ahead of Tom Shields, who will also be heading to Rio de Janeiro. Afterward, Phelps held his hand up to signify he will be heading to his fifth Olympics.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) June 30, 2016
The 22 medals Phelps has won are the most all-time by an Olympian, as are his 18 gold medals. Eight of those gold medals came at the Beijing Games in 2008. Overall, the 30-year-old took home eight medals in 2004, eight more in 2008, and six in 2012.
Here’s Phelps after Wednesday’s race.
Michael Phelps being presented for his 5th Olympic Team!! pic.twitter.com/Y8lySUpY7H
— ASCAswim (@AscAswim) June 30, 2016
Phelps joins Dara Torres as the only U.S. swimmers to qualify for the Olympics five times.
Michael Phelps made an appearance in the Arizona State student section Friday night to distract Oregon State free throw shooters.
The Sun Devils are famous for their “Curtain of Distraction,” in which some sort of distraction is unveiled from behind the curtain as an opponent is about to shoot free throws. Friday, the distraction was Phelps, wearing a Speedo and a pile of Olympic gold medals.
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) January 29, 2016
Clearly, it worked. Not only did Oregon State miss those two free throws, they went just 9-20 for the contest and lost to Arizona State by 18. The Curtain of Distraction lived up to its name.
One thing is for certain: Phelps is fond of wearing those Speedos around in public.
Michael Phelps and his fiancee Nicole Johnson announced on Wednesday that they are expecting a child, and it’s a boy.
Phelps revealed the big news with a post on Instagram.
“We found out 8 weeks ago we were expecting … Today we’re over 12 weeks and it looks like we’re having a boy!!!” Phelps wrote.
Phelps and Johnson, a former Miss California, got engaged earlier this year. The past year been difficult for the 18-time gold medalist, as he was arrested for a second DUI and entered rehab last October. Phelps was also at the center of a gossip scandal when a woman who was born a man claimed to have hooked up with him several times. Despite all that, he and Johnson remained together and are now about to start a family.