Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, was selected as Team USA’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games, the United States Olympic Committee announced wednesday.
Phelps, who is the first American male swimmer to qualify for a fifth Olympic Games, was chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA members.
Phelps made history at the Beijing Games in 2008 when he won gold medals in eight events and added to his legacy in 2012 when he became the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 career medals, including 18 golds. Set to compete in three individual events in Rio, Phelps, will look to add to his historic Olympic medal haul in 2016.
“I’m honoured to be chosen, proud to represent the U.S., and humbled by the significance of carrying the flag and all it stands for,” Phelps said. “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.”
Making his Olympic debut at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Phelps became the youngest male Olympian since 1932, and his eight gold medals from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is an Olympic record.
Phelps is only the second swimmer to lead the U.S. delegation into the Opening Ceremony and the fifth swimmer to serve as flag bearer for Team USA at the Olympic Games. Four-time Olympic medalist Gary Hall previously carried the flag into the Opening Ceremony of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montréal.
Similarly, Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray, has been named as the Team GB flag-bearer.
Murray, who was nominated for the prestigious role by his individual sport, was then selected by the British Olympic Association hierarchy from a list of all the others put forward.
Female reigning Olympic champion boxer Nicola Adams , who would have been the first black sports star to carry the GB flag at a summer Games opening ceremony, had been strongly tipped for the role earlier in the week having been nominated by British Boxing.
Murray was unveiled as the flag-bearer at the official reception for the GB team at British House last night where he is made a speech to help inspire the British medal chase.
The Wimbledon champion will be the first tennis player to carry the flag for Britain at an opening ceremony.
Murray said: ‘I am very proud to be selected as the Team GB Flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony on Friday. To represent your country at the Games is an unbelievable experience, but to lead out Team GB will be an incredible honour, the biggest in sport.
‘I hope to do the team proud on Friday and wish all of the British athletes the best of luck for the Games ahead.’
The Opening Ceremony will begin at midnight (8pm local time) on Friday at the 78,050 capacity Maracana, officially marking the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It is the first time the Olympic Games is to be held in South America.