Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, will carry Team USA's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games, Matt Lauer revealed on the "Today" show Wednesday.
The Opening Ceremony will be held Aug. 5 at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Phelps, the first American male swimmer to qualify for a fifth Olympics, was chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA members, the United States Olympic Committee said in a statement.
He told Lauer and "Today" co-host Hoda Kotb he learned of the honor from a pool staffer after practice Tuesday.
U.S. & World
"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," Phelps said. "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."
The trailblazer is only the second swimmer to lead the U.S. delegation into the Opening Ceremony. Phelps told Lauer that as swimmers, "we don't think we have this opportunity" and"there will be a lot of emotions."
At the age of 15, the Maryland native became the youngest male to break a world record when he smashed the 200-meter butterfly record at the 2001 Spring Nationals. After qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Phelps became the youngest male to make a U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years.
Phelps set another record at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where he won eight gold medals — more than any other athlete at an Olympics.
Twenty-two medals later — 18 of them gold — Phelps hopes to clock in a personal best in Rio.
"I haven’t done a best time since 2009. And you know, in our sport, it’s like you don’t want to work for a year, two or three or four years and not get faster," Phelps told NBC Sports' Bob Costas. "I am swimming faster than I have then, and potentially it could happen. I am not gonna say no, but I would love to see a best time and I think whatever happens in Rio, I'll be able to turn the page and know that that was the best that I can do." [[389048691, C]]
In an exclusive interview with Costas, scheduled to air at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC, Phelps revealed teammate Ryan Lochte, who holds the 200- and 400-meter individual medley records, has pushed him to be the best swimmer he could be.
"I can honestly say that I don’t know if I have had another competitor for this many years, that I still go head-to-head with that we are literally stroke to stroke in every single race," he said, adding that Lochte "definitely pushes me because I hate to lose, and I push him because he is probably the same exact way."
U.S Olympic Team Flag Bearers: Opening Ceremony
1908: Ralph Rose, Track and Field
1912: George Bonhag, Track and Field
1920: Patrick McDonald, Track and Field
1924: Patrick McDonald, Track and Field
1928: Lemuel (Bud) Houser, Track and Field
1932: F. Morgan Taylor, Track and Field
1936: Alfred Jochim, Gymnastics
1948: Ralph Craig, Yachting
1952: Norman Armitage, Fencing
1956: Norman Armitage, Fencing; Warren Wooford, Equestrian*
1960: Rafer Johnson, Track and Field
1964: William Parry O’Brien, Track and Field
1968: Janice Lee Romary, Fencing
1972: Olga Fikotova Connolly, Track and Field
1976: Gary Hall, Swimming
1980: U.S. did not attend
1984: Edward Burke, Track and Field
1988: Evelyn Ashford, Track and Field
1992: Francie Larrieu Smith, Track and Field
1996: Bruce Baumgartner, Wrestling
2000: Cliff Meidl, Canoe/Kayak
2004: Dawn Staley, Basketball
2008: Lopez Lomong, Track and Field
2012: Mariel Zagunis, Fencing
2016: Michael Phelps, Swimming
*Due to Australia’s immigration laws for horses, the 1956 equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden.