LONDON: Michael Phelps savoured one last golden moment, capping his remarkable Olympic swimming career with an 18th gold medal in the final event, the 4x100m medley relay, in the Aquatics Centre competition pool.
“It’s tough to put into words right now,” said Phelps. “I did everything I wanted to do. I finished my career the way I wanted to, and I don’t care what anyone says, if I can say that, it’s all that matters.”
But breaststroke star Kosuke Kitajima added some drama to the occasion, seizing a narrow lead for Japan by the time Phelps dived in for the butterfly leg behind US backstroker Matt Grevers and breaststroke swimmer Brendan Hansen. Takeshi Matsuda maintained Japan’s advantage at the 50m mark of the fly, but Phelps delivered a classic final lap to seize the lead for the Americans and 100m free gold medallist Nathan Adrian was untouchable in sealing the victory in 3:29.35.
“It is one of the funniest ways to do it. Being able to step up with these four guys and continue this streak is important to us. I just said before we went out, we’ve got to want to win, let’s just go out and do it.”
Their smile-filled medal ceremony was followed by a special presentation to Phelps, who received Fina’s lifetime achievement trophy and walked one last victory lap round the pool. In what he had vowed was his final race, the four-time Olympian took his career medals tally to 22. The 18 gold include the stunning eight gold in eight events he won in Beijing four years ago, and he also owns two silver and two bronze.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2012.