The most decorated Olympian of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps, has been selected to carry the flag for Team USA at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro.
Now in his fifth Olympic Games, Phelps has won 22 medals, including a staggering eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008. He will compete in three events in Rio this year.
Looking back over his historic career, Phelps said he is honored and humbled to represent Team USA.
“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,” he said.
“This time around, it’s about so much more than medals.”
Every Olympic Games, the U.S. team captains from all the sports vote on who should lead America’s contingent into the opening and closing ceremonies.
Who else has carried the flag for Team USA?
2008: Lopez Lomong
Not all U.S. Olympic flag-bearers were born in the United States. Lopez Lomong, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, escaped a camp for child soldiers and fled the Sudanese civil war when he was 6 years old. He spent more than a decade in a refugee camp in Kenya before he was eventually resettled in Tully, a small town in New York.
Lomong had wanted to run in the Olympics ever since he saw Michael Johnson run in the 2000 Sydney Olympics on a grainy TV set in the refugee camp in Kenya. Eight years later, Lomong competed in the 1,500-meter event in Beijing, then in the 5,000 meters in London.
“It’s more than a dream,” Lomong said in a 2008 interview. “There are no words to describe it.”
Lomong became a U.S. citizen 13 months before the Beijing Games.
1992: Peter Westbrook
At the closing ceremonies for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Team USA honored the five-time Olympic fencer Peter Westbrook. Carrying the flag at the close of his fifth Olympics, the 1984 bronze medalist in saber fencing sparked an Olympic legacy.
After he retired, he began the Peter Westbrook Foundation, which seeks to steer inner-city youth away from gangs and into fencing.
At his gym, he has trained five U.S. Olympic athletes, including Ibtihaj Muhammad, who in Rio will be the first U.S. athlete to compete in hijab. Muhammad also teaches classes at the foundation.
1988: Evelyn Ashford
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Evelyn Ashford was the first woman to run the 100-meter sprint in under 11 seconds at the Olympics in 1984. During the next Olympics, she was chosen to represent the U.S. at the Opening Ceremony of the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Fours year later, at 35 years old, she won gold in her third straight 4×100-meter relay at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, making her, at the time, the oldest woman to win gold in track and field.
Cheer on your favorite teams at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio August 5–21. You can follow U.S. Olympians at #USinRio.