Late Saturday night at the Rio Olympics, Michael Phelps dove into the pool with Team USA in second place in the 4×100 medley relay. Fifty seconds later, Phelps had pulled his team into the lead – of course – and given freestyler Nathan Adrian plenty of room for a victory. It was Phelps’ fifth gold medal of these Games and 23rd overall (to go along with three career silvers and two bronzes) and it’ll be his final one.
“I am done, boys,” he said with a smile in a group huddle after.
Four years ago, Michael Phelps stood on a pool deck in London and said he was done. Saturday night, he stood on a pool deck in Rio and said the same. The man speaking those words couldn’t have been more different.The London retirement was a half-hearted decision following a half-hearted performance. There was little doubt Michael Phelps would return to the sport he’d dominated like no other athlete had ever dominated a sport before. Nobody wants to go out in the middle.
Well, it was the middle for Phelps, anyway. For any other swimmer, a four-gold, two-silver and fourth-place finish at an Olympic meet, which is what he did in 2012, would be the achievement of a lifetime. In terms of medals it’s actually one of the 15 best Summer Games anyone has ever had. For Phelps, however, it was a disappointment, and one he brought upon himself.
Phelps’ fiancee Nicole Johnson couldn’t hold back her tears as she held their son Boomer and watched the Olympian’s final race with his mother Debbie.
Fans who had waited into the early hours for one last glimpse of Phelps let out a deafening roar as he stepped up to the podium to pick up his final gold medal.
Tears brimmed in the superstar’s eyes as the Star-Spangled Banner rang out to bring the curtain down on his masterful career.Phelps then slowly made his way around around the arena to where his family were waiting to hand him down a giant American flag.
He draped it around his teammates’ shoulders as they posed proudly with their medals, lapping up the historic moment.Recalling his emotional final day of Olympic swimming, Phelps said: ‘Getting off the bus walking into the pool tonight, I almost felt myself starting to cry.’
‘Last warm-up, last time putting on a suit, last time walking out in front of thousands of people representing my country. It’s insane.’
‘A lot better than what it was four years ago. This is how I wanted to finish my career, the way I wanted to. I held back a little bit on the podium but there were some that were popping down.’