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Michael Phelps’s game face spawns a new angry meme

Is #PhelpsFace the 'Crying Jordan of the Rio games'?


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 9, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 7:30 am CDT

Michael Phelps’s infant son Boomer may have already won the cuteness award at the Olympics, but Phelps himself is an early contender to take home the gold medal for memes.

On Tuesday night, the U.S. watched Phelps compete in the 200-meter butterfly semifinals, which he finished in second place, qualifying him for the finals. But the internet was much more interested in what Phelps did prior to the race. 

Since most of us don’t regularly watch swimming heats, or see what it’s like in warmup rooms outside of the Olympics, watching Phelps in serious beast mode as he sat listening intently, angrily even, to his headphones may have been a bit of a shock. And it stood in vast contrast to South Africa’s Chad le Clos, Phelps’s main rival in the 200-meter, who performed something like a pre-swim boxing match.

It didn’t take long until #PhelpsFace was born and Phelps was an instant meme. He was the ultimate angry face, and there was no irritation online that wouldn’t be made better with Phelps. The Associated Press called it the “Crying Jordan of the Rio Games,” but we’re not so sure that Phelps will replace the ultimate meme of defeat.

As much as Phelps looked like he was giving le Clos a death stare, he said he wasn’t even watching or paying attention to him.

“Nothing, honestly,” Phelps said. “I was trying not to even look at him. He does his thing, I do my thing.”

For now. But just wait until the 200-meter butterfly final tonight.

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*First Published: Aug 9, 2016, 8:41 am CDT