He strapped on his goggles, dove into the Rio pool, powered fast on the third leg, using his arms and legs to churn through the water, and indeed, he made a splash. In a pool party for the ages Saturday night, one that everybody will forever talk about for years to come, Michael Phelps racked up another gold medal for one last time.
It was the 23rd gold medal of his unmatchable, glittering career, and a record 28 overall, after his butterfly leg pushed the U.S. men’s team to a monumental victory in the 400-meter medley relay. He’s taken off his Speedo briefs, his swim cap with his name and the U.S. flag emblazoned on it. He’s leaving South America as the most decorated Olympian ever, taking his six medals, five of them gold in these Games with him, and swimming back home to America for good.
Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever, now and forever, and has accomplished more than any other Olympic swimmer. An era has come to an end in historic, dramatic fashion, with him going out on top and with him slowly putting a troubled past behind him as victories in any sport is a cure to all ills. He bounced back strong from the water bong incident, entered an Arizona rehab center, where he received treatment for six months after his second DUI arrest, and then he talked to his friend and retired NFL linebacker Ray Lewis.
Phelps has finally — or so he says — ended his remarkable odyssey by planning on retiring from a sport that he’s changed forever. His amazing feats in the pool won over the hearts of sports fans all across the world. And what he has done is distinguish himself from other U.S. swimmers in these Olympic games with his unparalleled achievements.
It was always about achieving his dream of gold, representing his country, challenging and pushing himself hard enough to cement his Olympic legacy in Rio, and cherish these games. It was a heck of a swimming voyage by Phelps, from Sydney to Athens to Beijing to London to Rio. Whether or not Phelps shows up to swim in Tokyo — while he’s adamant that he will stay retired — he’s the greatest human to ever touch water, and no swimmer will ever come close to matching his medal count.
When Phelps dove into the pool, it was as if the world suddenly stopped and forgot about everything else, to witness a performance filled with excellence. It’s believed that this was the final race of his five Olympics at age 31. If this was the last time we’ll see Phelps in the pool, he left out of the water with more hardware around his neck. This was greatness and triumph, history and perfection. This was a memorable Olympic games and, now that it’s finally ending, everybody is saying farewell to the greatest U.S. swimmer our nation has ever seen.
In London four years ago, he won six of Team USA’s 31 medals after he retired the first time. In Beijing, Phelps won eight gold medals, breaking U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of seven first-place finishes at any single Olympic games. Four years before that, he won six golds in Athens. For the final time, he and his teammates Nathan Adrian, Ryan Murphy and Cody Miller stood on the podium with gold medals around their neck. This was a night that Phelps fought back tears while swaying back and forth as the national anthem played on the loudspeaker.
As the most beloved figure in the history of the Olympics, he carried the American flag in the opening ceremony. He delivered a vintage performance, dominated in the water and reclaimed the title in the men’s 2oom butterfly after beating his rival Chad le Clos. He gave his rival the meanest death stare in the warm up room. He kicked ass as he usually does at the Summer Games.
I believe this is the last of Phelps. Five Olympic games have gone by, and now Phelps is enjoying every moment of fatherhood after his fiancee Nicole Johnson gave birth to the couple’s first son, Boomer Robert Phelps. His mother, Debbie, sure, wants to go to Tokyo, but let’s realize that he’s a well-accomplished Olympian and looks forward to being a full-time dad. Even though he’s produced more than he expected at his age, he’s older, focused on his family and wants to try new things.
It was quite fitting to see a heartwarming image of Phelps that featured swimming star Katie Ledecky posing with him after he had signed an autograph when she was only 9 years old. So now, Phelps will leave it up to the kids like Joseph Schooling, who was also seen on a photo with his boyhood idol Phelps in 2008, shortly before the Beijing Games.
After an astonishing career, Phelps is stepping out of the pool and drying off himself for good. He may have something left, but he’s done making a splash. He returned to an Olympic-size pool for one last time. He never stopped training. He never stopped conditioning his body. He never stopped competing. He never abandoned his diet. And he never gave up on Team USA.
The only thing that matters the most is that his return to the pool helped him stay out of trouble, to divert him from the wrong path. But now, he’s not diving in a Tokyo pool for another swimming party for the ages.
He has more than enough gold in his Olympic treasure chest. He’s forever the golden one.