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Michael Phelps' support for underdogs—Is this the mindset American swimmers need to adopt?

“Australia coming out on top is one thing, but it is just so much sweeter beating America,” boasted Australia’s swimming star Cate Campbell after they triumphed over the U.S. team at the 2023 World Championships in Japan. Her words kicked off another Australia vs. America debate that even caught the attention of swimming legend Michael Phelps a year later.

During NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Olympic trials, Phelps wasn’t amused when shown a clip of the Australian swimmer airing grievances about the American team. “If somebody said that to me, I would lose it,” Phelps quipped. “I would make them eat every word they just said about me.”

Adding fuel to the banter days later, Australian former Olympic champ Stephanie Rice shared her two cents in an exclusive column for news.com.au. Rice weighed in on the debate and cautioned against Aussie athletes trash-talking their American rivals before the Olympics. Instead, she offered a game plan to match the bold talk. She said, “Let’s do what Aussies do best, be the underdog, and let the Americans take all the pressure, then, at the perfect moment, in the Olympic final… dominate!”

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To really drive home her point, the 3x Olympic champion, Stephanie Rice, even brought up the tale of Australian ‘Missile,’ James Magnussen, at the London 2012 Olympics. She remembered how Magnussen, known for his bold predictions, set the bar high for himself and the Australian team before the 100-meter freestyle final in London. Fresh off a World Championships win, Magnussen didn’t hold back, telling his rivals to “brace themselves.”

Poll of the day

Who do you think is the true swimming GOAT?

Michael Phelps

Ian Thorpe

Mark Spitz

Katie Ledecky

But despite his confidence, he fell short by just 0.01 seconds—a razor-thin margin that turned his near miss into a headline-grabbing disappointment. As we mull over this advice, let’s also recall another moment when Michael Phelps first showed his supremacy over an Australian icon.

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How Michael Phelps silenced the Aussies on their own turf

Michael Phelps directly addressed the Australian swimmers and Cate Campbell on NBC during the 2024 US Olympic trials, saying, “You guys all talked s*** about me. And I had the last laugh.” So let’s recall that moment. Back in early 2007, when the World Championships came to Australia, it stirred up a big debate: was Phelps the king of the pool, surpassing the legendary Ian Thorpe? Around the globe, many leaned towards Phelps, but Aussies still held onto Thorpe as their swimming hero. Thorpe’s wins, especially that epic 200-meter freestyle race at the Athens Olympics, made him a legend.

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But when Phelps showed up in Melbourne for the championships, everything changed. He owned the pool, grabbing seven golds and smashing five world records in just one week. But the cherry on the cake was the 200-meter freestyle race. In that showdown, Phelps faced off against Pieter van den Hoogenband, the Olympic champ.

Phelps took an early lead and kept up a blistering pace, leaving his rival in the dust by the final lap. He finished in 1:43.86, breaking Ian Thorpe’s world record by 0.20 seconds. That race settled any debate about who ruled the pool. Reflecting on Stephanie Rice’s perspective and advice, what are your thoughts? Share your insights in the comments below!