OLYMPICS -- All-time great athletes make names for themselves through sustained excellence and dedication to their craft, but true legends of sport seem to know how to put on a mesmerizing performance in their final act.
In what was likely his final race, Michael Phelps swam the butterfly leg for the U.S. men’s 200M individual medley relay.
It was only fitting that one of the greatest Olympic careers ever came to an end with not only a gold medal, but an Olympic record setting performance.
Phelps’ final swim gave him his fifth gold medal at Rio and his sixth medal overall to add to his already incredible resume.
The 31-year-old holds a host of Olympic records including the most medals ever with 28, the most gold medals with 23 and the most individual medals with 16.
Phelps has missed the podium just twice in 30 career Olympic events. He finished fifth in the 200M butterfly as a 15-year-old in his first ever Olympics in Sydney and came in fourth in the 400M individual medley in London 2012.
Throughout his career the Baltimore native has set 39 world records, with 29 of them being set in individual events. He currently still holds seven of those records.
If you were to include all international competitions Phelps has accumulated 83 medals in his career. 66 of them are gold.
The American swim captain came into Rio as the country’s flag-bearer for the first time in his career and he leaves the games with at least four gold medals for the fourth consecutive Olympics.
All signs seem to point towards this being Phelps’ final Olympic games, but who knows. After all, the most decorated Olympian of all time retired following the London games in 2012, before deciding to return to the pool in 2014 and eventually qualifying for Team U.S.A. in Rio.
Despite all the accolades, the greatest Olympian of all time debate will continue to rage on. Definitively proclaiming someone as the “greatest” in any craft or profession is nearly impossible to do because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Perhaps Usain Bolt would have as many or even more medals than Phelps if there were more events for the Jamaican sprinter to enter in the Olympics, but that’s impossible to judge on speculation.
Regardless, if Phelps does decide to hang up his goggles and swim trunks after Rio, he will retire as ONE of the greatest athletes in Olympic history and there’s really no debating that.