On Saturday, Michael Phelps swam his heart out in the last race of his career, winning gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay with the help of his three other teammates. Gliding through the water with his signature stroke, Phelps waved goodbye to the thousands of American fans gathered in Rio to see the living legend compete for one last time.
Phelps has said that Rio 2016 would be his last Olympics. After nearly 16 years swimming professionally, Phelps is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and young baby at home.
In total, Phelps has won 23 Olympic gold medals, surpassing generations of competitors to take the world’s top spot as the most decorated athlete of all-time.
Phelps participated in his first Olympics as a 15-year-old in 2000, swimming alongside the legendary Australian superstar Ian Thorpe in the Sydney games. From there, Phelps went on to take home medals in Athens, Beijing, London, and Rio.
Here’s Phelps’ unprecedented Olympic medal history:
- Athens 2004: 6 gold, 2 bronze
- Beijing 2008: 8 gold
- London 2012: 4 gold, 2 silver
- Rio 2016: 5 gold, 1 silver
But the medals only tell half the story. Throughout his swimming career, Phelps has shattered numerous Olympic and world records in different stroke styles.
Some say there will never be a swimmer quite like Phelps in our lifetime. Perhaps that’s true.
However, the next generation of Olympic athletes is already giving Phelps and his record a run for their money. Team USA’s new superstar, Katie Ledecky, is already making a name for herself as the fastest woman in the world. The 19-year-old swimming machine actually met Phelps when she was just nine years old.
THROWBACK: 9-year-old Katie Ledecky was all smiles while getting Michael Phelps’ autograph!
(NYT/Ledecky Family) pic.twitter.com/AXQEQLg0p5
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 14, 2016
Ten years later, it’s Ledecky that’s poised to carry the baton forward.