Michael Phelps completed his last Olympics with 6 medals #GOAT

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The problem with covering Michael Phelps’ swimming career is it reads like hyperbole. But it really isn’t – he is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He has dominated his sport. He is a legend at the age of 31. However, we must get used to speaking about his legendary-swimming career in the past tense as he confirmed that he swam his last race, the 4x100m medley relay in which the US team set a new Olympic record. In his fifth Olympic showing in Rio, Phelps added five gold medals and one silver to bring his total Olympic medals to 23 gold medals and 28 medals total.

The United States had never failed to take the gold medal in the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay at a nonboycotted Summer Games, and it was not about to end the streak on Saturday, not in the competitive swan song of the greatest Olympian, Michael Phelps.

The backstroker Ryan Murphy — whose split time of 51.85 seconds set a world record — and the breaststroker Cody Miller set the stage for Phelps, who swam the butterfly leg and handed the freestyle anchor, Nathan Adrian, a lead he did not surrender. The Americans won with an Olympic record time of 3 minutes 27.95 seconds, giving Phelps his 23rd gold medal and his 28th over all. If Phelps were a country, he would be tied for 38th with South Africa.

“You just have no idea how difficult it is for anybody to win an Olympic gold medal,” said Phelps’s longtime coach, Bob Bowman. “I know Michael’s done it so frequently; it’s really hard to put it in perspective.”

[From New York Times]

As we discussed, Phelps had many firsts in his last Olympics like carrying the flag in the Parade of Nations and being elected a Team Captain. Fellow swimmer and teammate Anthony Ervin summed up Phelps’ experience pretty well by saying, “Being Michael requires such isolation. But this time he started reaching out to other people, bringing them closer. That was special for the entire team to see that.”

I have been following Phelps for a while but when I read that line about him being tied with South Africa for Olympic medals, it really threw me. And I agree with his coach about becoming inured to seeing him win. Despite the fact that we are sure he will, it is an incredible feat and I need to remember that for all of the Olympians who are showing so spectacularly in Rio. Speaking of fellow Olympians, there are some really cute pictures of Rio swimmers who met Phelps as children and are now competing with him:

A 10-year old Katy Ledecky:

And Joseph Schooling who beat Phelps in his last individual race, the 100m butterfly:

Despite Ryan Lochte guaranteeing us that Phelps will return in Tokyo, Phelps says this is it, he’s done. And unlike Phelps announcement after London 2012, he sounds like he means it. I’m fine with Phelps retiring. He had an amazing career and a personal arc that has him going out on top on all counts. I’m really happy he returned to the Rio Olympics not just for the glory but because as he has said, he’s, “having fun again.” Plus, there is the poetry of his fiancée and baby Boomer being in the stands to cheer him on. Nicole confirmed that a wedding date has been set for later this year and now that his training is done, they can finally get to walking down the aisle. According to US, Nicole and Phelps had some personal work to do as well, breaking up and getting back together before he proposed. I have no idea what Phelps will do next. I know he still has his Michael Phelps Foundation. Personally, I don’t think commentating would be in his comfort zone but I wonder if he might move into coaching? Whatever he does, I am sure he will be an inspiration. Just think off all the future Olympic swimmers today who have a photo taken with Phelps on their wall.

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Photo credit: WENN Photos Getty Images and Twitter

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28 Responses to “Michael Phelps completed his last Olympics with 6 medals #GOAT”

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  1. Abby says:

    He really is the GOAT. I’m glad he came back one last time. He seems like he’s beaten his demons. I wish him well in the future, and I hope he finds purpose post-Olympics. He’s inspired a generation of swimmers already. He just really is the greatest athlete and he’s a pleasure to watch.

    Plus, the memes are the best, I’ll miss the memes. :-)

  2. Pinky says:

    It was a fantastic Olympics for him, and just the way any athlete would want to go out. A redemption story, the statesperson for his/her team. Very happy for him and excited for what the future has in store for him and his family.

    –TheRealPinky

  3. PunkyMomma says:

    Boomer is everything.

  4. Esmom says:

    “You just have no idea how difficult it is for anybody to win an Olympic gold medal,” said Phelps’s longtime coach, Bob Bowman. “I know Michael’s done it so frequently; it’s really hard to put it in perspective.”

    This reminds me of a funny Tweet I saw from Bill Murray — that every Olympic event should include one average person for reference. So true — it can be easy to forget that mere mortals like us couldn’t even begin to come close to what Olympic level athletes make look so easy.

    What a journey for Phelps…wishing him all the best for the future.

    • GingerCrunch says:

      Lol, Esmom! I said this to my husband during that so-splashy 50m freestyle race! How badly would we have been beaten?!! Wonder if Matt & Al have done it on the Today Show? 🙄

    • NeoCleo says:

      I can’t even dance through an extended play song without needing to sit down! NOPE, I definitely understand that these people are a different type of human.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, lol, I always think about this during gymnastics — that I would barely be able to pull myself up onto the lower parallel bar without doing some serious damage to my arms and abs, let alone swing and flip so effortlessly over and under them! Their feats are truly unreal.

  5. Insomniac says:

    I’ve really enjoyed watching Michael this time. I tend to get a little jaded when famous people claim they’ve grown up and changed, but I really think he has. I think he understands now that younger people look up to him, and is trying to live up to that and be a genuine role model. I liked that he seemed sincerely happy for Joseph Schooling the other night. I’ll miss him if this is really it, but going out on top like this is definitely the way to go.

    • Ninks says:

      Yes, he seemed genuinely happy for Schooling who only had lovely things to say about him. I know some people were disappointed that Phelps ‘only’ got silver in his last individual race as if it spoiled the fairytale ending somehow, but for me that was actually the moment that made it. Phelps was beaten by a kid he had inspired and supported. That’s an incredible legacy to leave behind, and he has spoke about wanting to do more to promote swimming and inspire others to take it up. Schooling is the living example of that wish.

      • Nicole says:

        Yep and I think that’s exactly why he’s ready to move on. He said he wanted to change the sport and katie and joseph are living proof that he succeded

    • Fallon says:

      @Ninks – I was one of those people – and you changed my view. That’s a lovely way to look at it!

  6. Maude says:

    Each of his wins brought me to tears this Olympics. He is so amazing to watch. I feel like there is so much negativity and uncertainty in the world these days, and this was just pure, unadulterated goodness. For me, at least. I feel so lucky to have watched him swim. I just love the Olympics – it is great to gather with friends, watch and make memories. If he is really done – great, he deserves to go out on top. If he wants another go at it in Tokyo, all the better.

  7. lizzie says:

    i’ m actually so sick of looking at his face on my TV – i can’t wait for him to retire. yes he’s the greatest ever – of course – without question. but his face has monopolized olympic coverage to the point of exhaustion for me. “up next women’s gymnastics – but first – lets pan to michael phelps sitting on a chair” “here’s katie ledecky in the the lead for her 3rd gold me (camera off the race and to michael phelps in headphones” track was interrupted twice with michael phelps stories yesterday. OK WE GET IT! how about covering some other olympians?!

    • Belle Epoch says:

      LIZZIE I’m with you. I saw a video ad for watches that started out with Phelps raising up his arms, superimposed over the JESUS statue in Rio of Him extending his arms. I’m not religious but I found this ridiculous and offensive. The guy is not Jesus. He was born with the perfect body for swimming, and after rehab he got serious about using it. I’m not convinced that “Whatever he does…he will be an inspiration.” All he knows is swimming. I hope he doesn’t go back to alcohol again to fill the void. It will be a hard transition, and he can’t build a fulfilling future on his old accomplishments.

      • Fallon says:

        @Belle Epoch – I side-eyed that commercial. HARD. I’m also not religious, but whoever put that montage together really went all-in for him, didn’t they? I’m sure it was kicked around as “super champion… impressive wingspan… so we want him with his arms out… hey, doesn’t that statue have its arms out?”, because that’s how most concept meetings go… but it was a tad much.

    • Anon33 says:

      Not sure how he’s responsible for the way NBC and other media chose to portray him and his role in this Oylmpics. Do you really think that he went in there and said “superimpose me over a statue of Jesus” “feature me to the exclusion of all other athletes”?! I’m not disagreeing that their coverage has been biased in more ways the one, but that’s neither Michael’s fault nor his problem.

      • Belle Epoch says:

        Nobody is blaming him – I don’t even know where you got that. The point is that he is overexposed and the media are obsessed with him. He earned the right to be a swimming idol, but there are other talents and other stories. Enough already.

      • lizzie says:

        calm down mrs phelps

  8. Nicole says:

    I’ve loved watching him race for years and years as a swimmer myself. This time was different for sure. He looked more relaxed and open this time around. Plus seeing him enjoy this Olympics with Boomer was so special.
    He deserves to retire on top of his game and enjoy his family

  9. Miss M says:

    I am a Michael Phelps fan or as EscapedConvent said: I am Phelped! :)
    Thank you, GOAT! I will miss you, but my nails are thankful you went on a high note once again!

    I loved the photos! How cool must be you have an idol that inspired you as a child and you have a chance to compete with him. Wow!
    *goosebumps*

  10. Lucy says:

    If this is really it for him, farewell, Michael. Always be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. You deserve it.

  11. CuriousCole says:

    It’s been great to watch Phelps mature, he looks much happier/freer now. I love that he’s been reaching out to younger swimmers, helping Allison Schmitt with her depression and inspiring all of us. He does seem serious about retiring, and while Rio is a fitting exit, I’m really hoping he returns for one or two relay races in Tokyo!

  12. Mark says:

    That man deserves every medal he got, let’s hope he won’t be caught up in a doping scandal.

  13. Moony says:

    Sigh. I miss him already.

    Part of me is hoping that he will change his mind because, well, he’s done that before… but at the same time if he really thinks this is it, then I wish him all the best in his life.