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RIO 2016 STARS - Michael Phelps swims for more than medals
Dom, 07 de Agosto de 2016 14:02

Michael Phelps could become the first swimmer to win the gol...

Rio de Janeiro, BR Press) - As American swimmer Michael Phelps, the greatest medalist of all Olympic Games, prepares to make his first performance in Rio 2016 (August 7th) – he will be going for a fourth successive individual triumph in both the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley, a feat never achieved in any swimming event – a lot has been said and expected from the champion. 

Winner of 18 gold medals and 22 in total, Phelps wants more – "it's about so much more than medals”, he garantees. He has the chance to add three individual medals to his tally, having won the 100-metre and 200-metre butterfly and 200-metre individual medley at the US trials. 

Despite ending his unparalleled career at Rio 2016, his fifth Olympic Games, the 31 year-old could become the first swimmer to win the gold medal in the same event in four consecutive Games (100-metre butterfly and 200-metre IM [individual medley]). He also is projected to compete in three relays, meaning he could take his final haul to 24 golds and 28 medals.

Independent of the results, Michael Phelps has already conquered a place among the sports giants podium. Apparently stardom hasn’t affected the kind way he deals with fans (even when they are also sport giants, such as Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic)  requests while he walks calmly along the Olympic Village. 

Remarkable

Being in Rio is already gold for Phelps.  He has been the USA flag-bearer at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony. elected by his team-mates, a delegation of 556 athletes and the largest at the Olympic Games. Phelps has never walked in an opening ceremony, because the swimming competition typically begins the very next day and he's been scheduled to race in the past.

“A lot of swimmers don’t normally walk in the opening ceremony because swimming is the first week," he told NBC. "It’s kind of tough when for me, in the past I would swim the 400m IM [individual medley] on the first day. I get up and go right from the get-go. It’s tough to be on your legs for that long. You’re on your legs for like six or seven hours and it’s a long night”.

In 2014, Phelps was arrested for driving drunk. After rehabilitation due to alcoholism,  he felt he would have to change his training routine completely to keep competitive. “I felt so alone”, she said. “I used to consider myself a champion not a human being”. Phelps had to forget the phantoms of a Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis when he was a child, relationship problems and the syndrome most athletes have: loneliness. 

Phelps has worked hard to end his glorious career in Rio – since he is not 19 like the fellow American super swimmer and absolutely favourite olympic female hero Katie Ledecky. When he made his Olympic debut at Sydney 2000, a 15-year-old Phelps was the youngest male Olympian since 1932. Now at his fifth Olympic Games at the age of 31, he is one of the team's elder statesmen.

He trained twice a day swimming 80.000 metres per week, seven days a week. In Rio, he will have the huge mission to beat himself.  “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 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.”

Of course, there are always “the others” factor. Phelps will renew rivalries with adversaries such as Chad Le Clos of South Africa and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary in the butterfly events. He will also face 21-year-old all-rounder Kosuke Hagino in the medley and one final joust with his old friend and rival, 11-time medallist Ryan Lochte of USA. 

‘Mr. Pan’

There is also a Brazilian in the pool: the 30-year-old Thiago Pereira, known throughout Brazil as 'Mr Pan' thanks to his record haul of 23 Pan American Games medals. Pereira has been fighting losing battles with the great USA swimmer for 12 years at three Olympic Games. 

Despite a long-lasting rivalry with Phelps, Pereira has also a proud friendship with US swimmers, specially Phelps and Lochte. The Brazilian reminds the only time he can remember defeating the 22-time medallist: at London 2012, when Phelps took silver in the 400m individual medley behind Ryan Lochte who, that night, delivered a career-defining performance that relegated Phelps to an unaccustomed fourth-place finish.

"We’ve raced together since 2004. Me, Ryan and Michael, all those worlds and Olympics,” Pereira said poolside at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium."One of the reasons I’m still motivated, still believing, as I go into my fourth Games is Michael and Ryan. Those guys have pushed me to still be here”, Thiago Pereira continues. 

The Brazilian is not afraid to state Michael Phelps giantism: “He is the greatest Olympian of all time. I believe Michael’s changed the way people think about swimming. He’s motivated people to think differently about the sport, given it a big profile. As a swimmer, I know how hard it is to hold yourself at this top level for so long. He is an extraordinary athlete." 

Thiago Pereira hopes to derail the great champion's final Olympic Games. He will try to beat Phelps on the 200m IM [individual medley]. Tipped as the best of the host nation’s medal chances in the pool, Pereira is buoyed by competing in his home state, as he hails from Volta Redonda, just an hour away from the city of Rio de Janeiro.“For me, this has been more than unique. Most athletes don’t ever get this chance so I feel great”.

 

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