Ryan Held finds broad shoulder to cry on in Phelps

NC State swimmer overcome with emotions after winning first gold medal leans on 19-time gold medalist for support.

Stefan Wermuth - Reuters—0
2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Victory Ceremony - Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro

When Ryan Held needed a supportive shoulder to lean on after claiming an emotional first Olympic medal on Sunday, he found just what he needed in the man who has collected more than any other athlete in the history of sport.The towering figure of Michael Phelps, now the proud owner of 19 golds and four other medals, stood alongside the 21-year-old debutant on the Rio podium as part of the quartet that won the 4×100 meters freestyle relay.”It was just the thought of me making my first international team, it really being my first international swim besides this morning, and to win a gold medal,” the NC State swimmer said of his tears. “I’ve heard the national anthem thousands of times before but there was something different about this one that I just couldn’t hold back the emotions manifested in the tears.”Phelps, the most medalled Olympic athlete, winning gold for the fourth Games in a row, could appreciate exactly what that felt like, even if it was 12 years since he first topped the podium.”I told them ‘it’s OK to cry’. It’s good to see some emotion as one of the old dudes,” the 31-year-old Phelps told reporters, his own eyes glistening under the spotlights as he stood for the anthem.Phelps with a monster leg, 47.12. Adrian with the close. Dressel electric star. Held, the rookie, "Held" serve. That gold was unexpected.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) August 8, 2016
Held said his illustrious team mate, described by French rival Fabien Gilot as an “extra-terrestrial”, just had some simple words of advice for the podium novices.”He just said ‘enjoy it, man’. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Just take in the moment, take in the crowd. And he just gave a pat on the back and (said) ‘Good job, buddy’.”Held swam the third leg of the relay event, posting a 47.73 split in the 100 meters. While his time was slightly behind Nathan Adrian (46.97) and Phelps (47.12), the junior sprinter edged out Caeleb Dressel (48.10) to prove his worth to the relay team.Phelps handed over to him after giving the team an advantage over defending champions France at the earlier turn, and he said the only thought in his mind was not to lose any ground. Team co-captain Nathan Adrian, the 2012 100m freestyle champion, then swam the final and fastest leg with the confidence of a veteran.”Nathan Adrian, he’s a great leader,” Held said. “I gain confidence being around him by the way he holds himself and feel I stand a little bit taller with him too. I feel a little bit stronger, faster, smarter with him around.”He really just taught me to stay calm. This the Olympics, the lights, cameras, everything. But this is just a 100 free and I’ve done it thousands of times before.”