Michael Phelps held five fingers high after his hand hit the wall, a sure sign he realized he’d done something much larger than win another race.
With his victory in the 200-meter butterfly on Wednesday evening, Phelps became the first American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympics. But the moment felt heavier than that even. He thought he never wanted to swim again in 2012 and in the four years since, he had plunged into an emotional abyss, been arrested, learned volumes about himself in therapy, found love and become a dad.
All of it seemed to wash over him as he processed the swim that guaranteed him a place in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think that means the...