What a journey!

Glory is not new to Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time. After 5 Olympics appearances, numerous records and 22 medals (and still counting), he has left no doubt in our minds about his athletic abilities, discipline, endurance and desire to win.   The privilege to hold the ‘Stars and Stripes’ high and lead our country to the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro is a great honor that could be bestowed on the greatest swimmer of our time.

Literally, I got goose bumps as I watched Michael Phelps leading the US Olympic contingent into Maracana Stadium. Even though I was watching the opening ceremony on the television, I felt as if I was there in the stadium.  What a wonderful sight! The joy and the happiness reflected on the faces of the athletes combined with the pride, joy, and calmness on Phelps’s face transported me to swim heaven. His demeanor echoed what he said – “I’m honored to be chosen, proud to represent the U.S. and humbled by the significance of carrying the flag and all it stands for.”

Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony
Michael Phelps carries the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

What a great moment for all the swimmers. Our very own leading the US Olympic team. I am very sure every person on the team is a great athlete having exceptional credentials to be the flag bearer. But, who could mean more for the sport of swimming? Who could showcase better the ability to come back stronger? Who could epitomize Olympic spirit? Of course, it can be debated, but Michael Phelps must be on the top stratosphere with an elite few. It means lot more than adding ‘flag bearer’ to Olympic resume. Team US, you made the right choice!

Phelps’s contribution to the sport of swimming has been lot more than winning 22 Olympic medals or many records he has broken in the water. He is a role model to countless children, who otherwise would have never gotten in the water due to fear of drowning. He has, directly or indirectly, encouraged many children to take up the sport of swimming.   And in this regard, I think, Michael Phelps comes second to none.

While we deliberate, at least for next few weeks while the games are on, about his swimming prowess and how many more medals he can win, we should also celebrate his achievements on and off the water.   Even though this may be his last Olympic, his contribution will be felt for a long time to come.  The mission statement of Michael Phelps Foundation summarizes his contribution very well – “Working to promote healthy, active lives, especially for children, primarily by expanding the opportunities for participation in the sport of swimming”.

Encourage children to learn to swim and promote water-safety and healthy-living.

– Meghna Sil


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