Michael Phelps’ ‘Death Stare’ Becomes a Meme
An image of Team U.S.A. swimmer Michael Phelps glaring in the direction of a rival swimmer from South Africa has entered the meme lexicon.
The video, which was taken just minutes before Phelps’ 200-meter butterfly semifinal on Aug. 9, shows Phelps sitting in his chair with his hoodie on, glaring as he listened to music on his headphones, while South African rival Chad le Clos could be seen smiling and shadowboxing in front of him.
Four years ago, at the London 2012 Olympics, le Clos beat Michael Phelps by five-one hundredths of a second in the 200 meter butterfly event.
When someome has “just a quick question” at the end of a two hour meeting before lunch pic.twitter.com/OSpWisTioE
— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) August 9, 2016
On Tuesday night, Phelps and le Clos will compete again against one another. In the semifinal round, le Clos finished third and Phelps got second place.
NBC’s Michele Tafoya asked Phelps after finishing the semifinal round what his look was all about.
“What were you thinking?” she asked. “Nothing,” Phelps replied. “I was trying to not even look at him. He does his thing, I do my thing.”
Since the 2012 Olympics, there has been a bit of bad blood between the two swimmers. “Michael Phelps has been talking about how slow the butterfly events have been recently,” Le Clos said last year after the World Championships event. “I just did a time he hasn’t done in four years. So, he can keep quiet now.”
In a New York Times article, Phelps reacted. “Chad liked me, and then he didn’t like me,” Phelps said. “He said I was his hero, and then he was calling me out.”
On Twitter, the image was transformed into a meme—one that will likely endure beyond the Rio Olympics.
Not saying Phelps WILL become an intergalactic despot, I’m just saying we can’t ignore the possibility pic.twitter.com/ojW1w9Hsd3
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) August 8, 2016
When 19 is not enough gold medals pic.twitter.com/Wqd5fsxSGG
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) August 9, 2016
when starbucks is out of coconut milk pic.twitter.com/6IMdhcLcIo
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) August 9, 2016