RIO DE JANEIRO — When Michael Phelps began training at Arizona State University last year, he brought a spotlight to the school and its swim program led by his coach Bob Bowman.
On Friday, the world’s spotlight will shine on Phelps when he carries the flag for Team USA at the Opening Ceremony, the United States Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.
Phelps, who will become a volunteer assistant coach at ASU after he finishes competing in his fifth Olympics, is excited about the opportunity to carry his nation’s flag.
“I think I had the biggest smile on my face that you could possibly find,” Phelps said in press conference Wednesday morning before what is expected to be his final Olympics. “A little bit of emotion came over me. I probably shed a little bit of tears, just of joy.”
Many of Phelps’ teammates think he is the perfect choice for carrying the flag.
“It feels so right,” said Missy Franklin, who is one of many U.S. swimmers who felt inspired by Phelps as she began to pursue her Olympic goals.
This will be the first time the most decorated Olympian in history will walk in the Opening Ceremony. In each of his four previous Olympics, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist skipped the ceremony because he was swimming the next day and chose rest over attending the event.
This year, Phelps is not swimming on the first day of competition, which gives him the opportunity to not only walk in the athletes parade, but also carry the flag.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Phelps said. “I have to do it. I want to do it.”