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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.
Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.