Those images of smiling athletes from around the world entering the Olympic stadium always stuck with him. ”As a kid, you’re like, ‘Yeah, it would be pretty sweet to be able to carry the flag,”’ Phelps said, beaming. In a way, this is a perfect capper to Phelps’ career, no matter how many medals he adds to his already staggering total in Rio. He has become a true leader of the U.S. swimming team, mentoring younger athletes and eagerly embracing the chance to be a role model. For the first time, Phelps is serving as a team captain at the Olympics. Now, he’s received an even bigger accolade. ”It feels so right,” said 21-year-old teammate Missy Franklin, one of many swimmers inspired by Phelps during their early years at the pool. The 31-year-old Phelps, who retired from swimming after the London Games but quickly reversed that decision, will compete in three individual events at Rio and could be a member of all three relay teams. But he has continually stressed that his desire to compete in another Olympics had little to do with collecting more gold.
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