Thiago Pereira feels, in the shape of his life as he prepares for the "more than unique" experience of competing in a home Olympics against old rivals Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Pereira won 400 metre individual medley silver behind Lochte in London four years ago, with the legendary Phelps finishing outside the medals in fourth place.
The 30-year-old, nicknamed 'Mr Pan' due to his record 23 Pan American Games medals, can expect great backing at the Aquatic Stadium when he attempts to get on the podium once again just an hour from his birthplace Volta Redonda.
Pereira is ready to embrace the challenge of carrying the hopes of the host nation when he comes up against iconic United States duo Phelps and Lochte once again. He said: "We've raced together since 2004. Me, Ryan and Michael, all those worlds [World Championships] and Olympics.
"One of the reasons I'm still motivated, still believing, as I go into my fourth Games is Michael and Ryan. Those guys have pushed me to still be here. "I believe Michael's changed the way people think about swimming, he's motivated people to think differently about the sport, given it a big profile. And that's what we want.
"In my eyes, he's the greatest Olympian of all time. I had that opportunity to beat him once but I respect him for everything he's done. As a swimmer, I know how hard it is to hold yourself at this top level for so long. He is an extraordinary athlete."
He added: "Since London 2012, I've had the best four-year cycle of my career. I'm pretty sure I'm in the best shape I've ever been. "I've eaten well, rested well, trained well. I've done everything I could to be on the podium again.
"For me, this has been more than unique. I had the chance in 2004 to start my Olympic career in the place where the whole history of the Games started and now I have the chance to compete in my own country. Most athletes don't ever get this chance so I feel great.
"I hope these Games will change the way we think about sports in Brazil. I'm pretty sure it's going to be amazing and we're all hoping the whole of Brazil can put on the best Olympic Games in history."
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