Michael Phelps is, needless to say, an Olympic legend. Phelps is worshiped in his home country of the United States for his huge international success, which includes 21 Olympic gold medals. But, quite intriguingly, Phelps is also idolized by those who are now his competitors. Despite some ready room shenanigans, Phelps' fierce rival Chad Le Clos, who he defeated in the men's 200 metres butterfly final (to avenge Le Clos' win in London 2012), has openly admitted that Phelps is "the reason I swam the butterfly"; the man who finished behind Le Clos in that final, Daiya Seto, posed for a photo with Phelps as a child and has said that he wants to "be like" Phelps.
As a child, Daiya Seto looked up to Michael Phelps. Now he might outswim him at the Olympic Games. https://t.co/tFfwcs8P2H
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 7, 2016
But it is rare that one athlete will openly express their admiration for another, especially shortly before a competition. It appears to be Daniel Wallace of Great Britain who is bowing down at the great one here, just before diving in for his 200m individual medley race (though he was in a different heat than Phelps).
It isn't exactly unusual for sportspeople to compete against athletes who were their heroes growing up. Early on in his career Phelps himself emerged as the main rival to Australian great Ian Thorpe, with Thorpe defeating Phelps in the 200 metres freestyle in Athens in 2004, which was dubbed the 'Race of the Century' beforehand.
Photos have also emerged during the Rio Olympics of Phelps alongside a young Katie Ledecky. Ledecky, now Phelps' USA team-mate, has already won three gold medals and a silver at the Games so far and has a chance to add to that total in the 800 metres freestyle.
10 years ago: A 9-year-old named Katie Ledecky gets an autograph from Michael Phelps (Credit: Ledecky Family) pic.twitter.com/oOOPns5mor
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 10, 2016
Reports of a photo circulating the depths of the Internet featuring a teenage Roy Keane with his childhood hero, Mick McCarthy, appear to be unfounded.