There was a pretty amazing juxtaposition between the opening and closing ceremonies of the Rio Olympics. At the beginning, we had an established, decorated Olympian who carried our country's flag in for the opening ceremony. At its close, a woman who absolutely crushed her Olympic debut was bestowed with the honor. So the difference between Michael Phelps and Simone Biles carrying the U.S. flag between the two ceremonies was much more than visual. In fact, it was a symbolic bookend to the games.
But, OK, let's talk about the pretty amazing height difference between the two athletes. You know, just to get it out of the way. The six-foot-four-inch swimmer was tapped to carry the American flag in for the Rio de Janeiro games. Weeks later, when the games closed, it was a very different visual. The gymnast stands at four-foot-eight-inches tall, and not only did Biles stand in stark contrast to her fellow flag bearers, but also certainly the man who was tasked with introducing the United States to the world for the Rio Olympics. And she did it with immense strength and grace.
Again, there is a lot to unpack herewith their differences, but take a moment to put those two images back to back, because it's really so good. Here's Phelps:
And here's Biles:
But beyond the vertical contrast, there's a lot to discuss when it comes to Phelps and Biles as the flag bearers. Phelps has competed in five Olympic competitions, winning 28 medals in the process. Rio de Janeiro, meanwhile, was Biles' first time to compete in the Olympics. But she made up for her lack of longevity in the games, taking home four golds and a bronze medal in the 2016 games. Not too shabby for a first timer, to say the least.
Even more, though, it seemed to be a passing of the torch. It was heartening to see a veteran who allegedly competed in his last games pass the Olympic torch to a brand new competitor who refuses to be compared to any other athlete. Each is incredibly unique.
The two flag bearers were also a testament to the U.S. and its diversity. A white male who has long been in the center of the sports world was then followed up with a black woman who is a relative newcomer to the world stage. So while the height difference might have been the most easily identifiable difference, there was a lot more to think about in the difference between the two.