It was quite an emotional scene on the podium following Team USA’s gold-medal-winning performance in the 4x100m freestyle Sunday night.
Not one, but two, U.S. athletes broke down in tears, leading to one of the most memorable moments so far in Rio.
“The young bucks brought tears to our eyes,” Michael Phelps told the TODAY Show, referring to Ryan Held and Caeleb Dressel, who along with Phelps and Nathan Adrian captured gold in an event that had been dominated by France the last two Olympic Games.
For Held, 21, it was his first international competition and his first international race. He didn’t compete in any of the previous races as he was added to the squad just prior to the gold-medal race.
While the national anthem was playing and the American flag was raised at the medal ceremony, Held broke down in tears.
Eventually, Phelps consoled the Olympic rookie while they were still on the podium.
"When the tears started rolling,” Held told TODAY. "Michael put his arm around me and was like, ‘Hey man, take it easy, you’re going to make me cry. Just take it all in. You’re not going to have this feeling again for a while.' "
Dressel, who won’t turn 20 for a few more days, also broke down, and cameras caught the emotions for all to see.
As he draped himself in an American flag, Dressel was comforted by Phelps, who has plenty of experience winning gold and appearing on swimming’s biggest stage.
"I was saying to Nathan, I was trying to hold back as much as I could,” Phelps said of his tearful teammates. “(Dressel) started shedding tears and Ryan started shedding tears."
Held said Phelps means a lot to the younger swimmers on the team, through good times and bad.
"Michael is a great leader and a great athlete,” Held said. "He gives a sense of confidence to other swimmers, so when I’m around him I feel a little stronger and stand a little taller and just feel a little more confident.”
And he also provides a great shoulder to cry on.
"I’ve heard the national anthem plenty of times before, and I’ve received awards before as they played the national anthem,” Held said. “But this was different. The emotions just kind of manifested themselves and the tears started rolling."