Michael Phelps fittingly brought an end to his incredible Olympic career with gold medal success in his last Olympics swim in the 4x100m medley relay.
Phelps heads in to retirement as the great Olympian of all time, with a stunning total of 22 medals from four Olympic games, having overcome Soviet Union gymnast Larisa Latynina‘s former record of 18 medals during the London 2012 games.
“It’s tough to put into words right now, but I finished my career how I wanted to,” said Phelps. “Through the ups and downs of my career I’ve still been able to do everything that I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. I’ve been able to things that no-one else has ever been able to do and this is one of the funnest ways to finish it, in a relay.”
Phelps’ assault in the Aquatics Centre in London didn’t start entirely to plan, the American only finishing fourth in the 400m individual medley, before taking silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay and then being pipped to the line in his favoured 200m butterfly event to take another silver.
He quickly put aside any doubts over his form though with victory in the 4x200m freestyle relay to surpass Latynina’s record, before becoming the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics with victory in the 200m individual medley, also becoming the first swimmer to win five individual Olympic medley titles.
Phelps repeated his hat-trick feat with a gold medal in the 100m butterfly, his last ever individual event, before bringing his Olympic career to a close with the win in the 4x100m medley relay, ensuring that it wasn’t his fellow American and main rival Ryan Lochte, but Phelps, who took all the headlines in his farewell games, finishing as the most successful swimmer of the meet for the third Olympics in a row.
Phelps’ Olympic career began at Sydney in 2000 when he qualified as a 15 year old, becoming the youngest man to make a US Olympic swim team for 68 years. Although he didn’t win a medal, he did make the finals and showed potential of what was to come.
Four years on in Athens, the medal rush began, Phelps securing six gold medals, four individually and two as part of a relay team. He also secured two bronze medals, including in the 200m freestyle, a race many called “The Race of the Century” as Phelps came up against the two of the fastest freestylers of all time, Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband.
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing proved to be the defining moment in Phelps’ career as he won an incredible eight gold medals in eight days, beating fellow American Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in a single games from 1972. Phelps set an amazing seven world records and eight Olympic records en-route to his five individual and three relay gold’s.
Phelps’ remarkable Olympic career means that in an overall medal table of all competing nations in Olympic history, Phelps alone would sit 41st, securing more gold medals himself than countries like Argentina and Jamaica.
As Phelps leaves the Olympics stage as the great Olympian of all time then, the question is raised:
Will anyone ever beat his record of 22 medals?
Simon Paice – Head of News