After achieving his 19th gold medal last night, we all know that Michael Phelps is no stranger to the Olympic podium. So he wanted to give the younger guys a bit of advice that you wouldn’t necessarily anticipate coming from the most decorated athlete of all time:
“I told them beforehand it is OK to sing, and it is OK to cry,” Phelps said. “It is good to see the emotion out of those guys, and it shows they really do care. They were so amped. As one of the old guys, it is pretty cool to see.”
Sure enough, as he stood up there with teammates Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Held and Nathan Adrian to sing the national anthem, the waterworks ensued, and it was quite a beautiful moment.
Held got particularly emotional as the tears streamed down his cheeks, and Phelps embraced him as if to give his teammate some extra assurance that “it’s OK.”
“I didn’t think I was going to cry. I was too tired to cry, I didn’t think I could cry,” Held told USA Today. “I’ve heard the national anthem hundreds of times, but as soon as that played it was just something different. The tears just started rolling down my face.”
The 21-year-old was beyond honored to be a part of Phelps’ Olympic team and was so grateful for his encouragement.
“Holy cow, it’s unreal, unbelievable,” said Held. “To be with him and to be teammates on his last hoorah, it’s amazing.”
Phelps got pretty teary-eyed himself, as he reveled in his Olympic comeback. After hitting rock bottom and battling a bout with suicide, Phelps says Jesus brought him back to his feet. He’s a totally new man.
Standing there accepting his 19th gold for the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, you would’ve thought it was his first.
In a culture that says “real men don’t cry,” it’s pretty amazing to see these strong men lay all their tears out there on the floor. There’s no shame in being vulnerable, and this captivating moment is living proof.