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Michael Phelps to carry U.S. flag during opening ceremony

Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — Michael Phelps has a lot of memorable moments at the Olympics.

This one ranks right up there.

Adding another honor to his remarkable career, Phelps was chosen to carry the U.S. flag in Friday night’s opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium.

The pick seemed obvious — Phelps, after all, is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history and will be competing in his fifth Summer Games — but he was clearly overwhelmed Wednesday after being selected in a vote of American athletes representing each sport.

“To lead our country into this Olympics is something, honestly, that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do,” Phelps said.

In fact, this will be the first time he’s participated in the opening ceremony, which can be a grueling experience requiring athletes to spend hours on their feet.

As a 15-year-old, his handlers thought it best that he not take part even though he qualified in only one event at the 2000 Sydney Games. At the last three Olympics, Phelps skipped the ceremony to rest up for his first event, the 400-meter individual medley, which was held the next day.

With the 400 IM no longer part of his program, he was available to lead the American team into one of the world’s most iconic stadiums.

Phelps got word of his selection Tuesday night.