Olympic viewers around the world witnessed one of the most iconic game faces of all time when Michael Phelps showed off his steely glare in the ready room prior to the men’s 200m butterfly in Rio.
With rival South African Chad Le Clos shadow boxing in front of the now 23-time Olympic gold medalist, Phelps made a face that took the internet by storm within hours of his clenching the gold medal. #PhelpsFace became a social media phenomenon capped off by one ultra-inspired fan even transferring the image to his own skin in the form of a tattoo.
Weeks later, we’re now privy to exactly what was blinking beneath the surface of the super-focused competitor when he flashed the #PhelpsFace, as Phelps revealed his motivation while on stage at MTV’s Video Music Awards show yesterday.
While appearing as a special guest introducing the rapper, ‘Future’, Phelps told the audience that the artist’s song “Stick Talk’ was what was blaring through his ear phones in the ready room that day, which caused Phelps to channel his inner beast and beat out the field to take the 200m fly win.
“There’s no rapper today more inspiring than Future. His optimism is in his name,” he said. “Remember in Rio when I made that face that was all over the internet? I was in my zone with Future’s ‘Stick Talk.'”
Phelps has long pointed to rap music as his musical inspiration. He pointed to Eminem’s track “Till I Collapse” as one of his favorite training tracks in 2012, the year he would become the greatest Olympian of all time.