LONDON — Michael Phelps, his emotions overflowing as he swam his last competitive race before retiring, ended his record-breaking career on Saturday the only way he knew how, by winning another Olympic gold medal.
Joining forces with his American teammates, Phelps gave the sporting world one last view of his incredible talent and determination to win when the United States blitzed their opposition in the men’s medley relay on the final day of the swimming competition at the London Games.
“I couldn’t ask to finish on a better note,” Phelps said. “I have done everything I wanted to do. I am very happy.”
It was the perfect ending for the most decorated Olympian of all time who built a stockpile of medals that once seemed unimaginable.
He finished his career with 18 gold medals, six from Athens, eight from Beijing and four from London, twice as many as the next best in any sport.
Phelps also won two silver and two bronze medals during his career, giving him a total of 22, yet another record. Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina held the previous record for almost half a century, but Phelps set a standard that could last even longer.
When he finished his final race, the crowd at London’s Aquatics Centre, including his mother Debbie, rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
Swimming’s world governing body Fina presented him with their lifetime achievement award and Phelps’ lifetime coach Bob Bowman whispered in his ear: “I love you.”
“We hugged, he said ‘We did it,’ we smiled and I said ‘yes, we did’ and that was it.”
The US have never been beaten in the men’s medley relay at the Olympics, so the outcome of Saturday’s race seemed a formality when Phelps teamed up with backstroker Matt Grevers, breaststroker Brendan Hansen and freestyler Nathan Adrian.