Michael Phelps

Week 147 (30 July - 5 August 2016)

Later tonight, the whole world will turn its attention to Rio de Janeiro. After years of preparation, the moment has finally arrived: the greatest show on earth and first Olympic Games to be held in South America is about to begin.

Three billion people are expected to tune in to the Opening Ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium this evening, hoping to soak up the carnival atmosphere as 300 dancers and 5,000 volunteers put on the performance of their lives. But for a very particular group of people, this moment will be extra special.

For the 207 athletes chosen as flag bearers, tonight represents an acknowledgement of all they have achieved, a chance to inspire everyone watching and an opportunity to unite their team as they prepare to impress on the world stage. Among them will be Michael Phelps - the most decorated Olympian in history - who was chosen by his fellow Team USA athletes to represent his country in the Parade of Nations.

It isn't difficult to see why they chose him. Making his Olympic debut in the pool at Sydney 2000 when he was just 15 years old, Phelps has broken a string of world records and competed at a total of four Games, boasting a historic Olympic medals' haul of 22, of which 18 are gold.

With a sporting career that impressive, there doesn't appear much left for the swimmer to achieve.

But this is clearly a man unsatisfied with settling. Having gone into retirement after London 2012, Phelps is back for an unbelievable fifth Olympic Games and proving his determination to keep on trying, even if there is apparently nothing left to try for. Everything Phelps does seems to say "there is always more" and this is a message he was keen to convey as he accepted the honour of flag bearer.

"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."

Phelps teaches us that, no matter how much we think we have accomplished, we can always push ourselves further, always dare to hope for more. This lesson in human perseverance will be reinforced over the next two weeks in Rio as we come together to witness incredible feats of endurance and perhaps, even, uncover another sporting legend. Bring on the Opening Ceremony. Bring on the Olympic Games!

Photo: Flickr