Phelps thrilled to be U.S. flag bearer

Thu Aug 4, 2016 5:28pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 18 gold medals among his career haul of 22, said it was a dream come true to be chosen to carry the U.S. flag in Friday's opening ceremony at the Rio Games.

"To lead our country into this Olympics is something I honestly never thought I would have the opportunity to do," the 31-year-old told reporters on Wednesday.

"Just the honour and opportunity to do that is incredible... this has to be one of the coolest things I have ever done. To be nominated by your peers is an awesome feeling."

Phelps, who will be the first American male swimmer to compete at five Games, was chosen in a team vote to lead the delegation into the Maracana stadium in what will be his first opening ceremony.

The swimming great, who won an unprecedented eight golds at one Games in Beijing in 2008, is set to add to his haul in Rio with three individual events as well as relays.

He will not be in pool action until Sunday evening at the earliest, but in the past has shunned such ceremonies with all the standing around and staying up into the early hours.

With Rio potentially being his last Games, Phelps is determined to do things differently and savour every moment even if coach Bob Bowman had his concerns.

Phelps said he asked Bowman about how it might affect his performance on a scale of 1-10, with eight signalling clear approval. Bowman gave it a 7.8.   Continued...

Aug 4, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil;  Michael Phelps (USA) swims prior to the start of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports