- Wayne Drehs, ESPN Senior Writer
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LONDON -- When he woke up Wednesday morning and began scrolling through thousands of Twitter mentions congratulating him on becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps found one name in particular that clearly stood out. It was that of President Barack Obama.
“Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal record,” Obama tweeted. “You’re made your country proud. -- bo.”
Phelps responded by tweeting, “Thank you Mr. President!! It’s an honor representing the #USA!! The best country in the world!!”
Welcome to the first Twitter Olympics, where the conversation the morning after Olympic greatness centers not on what you had to eat or where you went to celebrate but rather how many famous people or fellow athletes gave you a shout-out in social media. For Phelps, the list included Obama, John Wall, Dhani Jones and Shaun White.
“A bunch of athletes and figures from all over the world were sending things,” Phelps said. “It was pretty cool.”
U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte saw the Obama tweet and reacted as only Lochte could.
“That was pretty tight,” Lochte said.
Phelps and Lochte were both back in the water for preliminary heats on Wednesday morning. Lochte turned in the second-fastest time in of the morning in both the 200 backstroke (1:56.36) and 200-meter individual medley (1:58.03), while Phelps had the fourth-fastest time in the 200 IM (1:58.24). Fellow American Tyler Clary was fastest in the 200 back with a time of 1:56.24. All three will race in semifinals Wednesday night.
“I didn’t really get much sleep last night," Phelps said. "I didn’t warm down at all so this morning I didn’t feel too comfortable."
Also back in the pool Wednesday morning was Missy Franklin, who swam her preliminary heat in the women’s 100-meter freestyle in the 10th-fastest time (:54.26). She admitted it was hard getting focused for her race because she’s particularly excited about Thursday’s 200-meter backstroke, her best event. But at the same time, she was buzzing about her own brush with celebrity via Twitter.
It came in the form of a pair of tweets from her two favorite singers -- Justin Bieber and 2011 American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. Both had watched Franklin’s gold medal performance in Monday night’s 100-meter backstroke final and gushed about the 17-year-old on the social media website.
Bieber tweeted: “heard @FranklinMissy is a fan of mine. now im a fan of hers too. CONGRATS on winning GOLD! #muchlove”
If you needed a reminder that Franklin is still just a teenage girl, watching her run around the Olympic village and hyperventilate over the tweet likely would have done the trick. She reacted not like an Olympic champion or budding celebrity in her own right, but like any teenage girl who had just found out that Justin Bieber knew she existed. With her heart undoubtedly raced, Franklin composed herself enough to reply, “I just died. Thank you.”
“I could not believe it when I saw it,” Franklin said Wednesday. “I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I was so excited.”
Then came the mention from McCreery, who first tweeted that he was rooting for Franklin and then later tweeted, “I like how @franklinmissy wants to stay in high school even tho shes an Olympian. They were the best 4 years of my life for sure!”
Of course, it isn’t the decision to go to high school but rather college that Franklin will weigh after the Olympic Games. But that didn’t stop her from thanking McCreery for the Twitter love and gushing about him as well.
“And Scotty McCreery, too?” she said. “I was super excited about that. My two favorite singers tweeted me. That was incredible.”