Michael Phelps signs off with 23 Olympic golds

Aparna Parekh
Rio de Janeiro : Silver medal winners Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, South Africa's Chad Le Clos and United States' Michael Phelps and Singapore's gold medal winner Joseph Schooling, from left, celebrate in the men's 100-meter butterfly medals ceremony during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AP/PTI

Rio de Janeiro : Silver medal winners Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and United States’ Michael Phelps and Singapore’s gold medal winner Joseph Schooling, from left, celebrate in the men’s 100-meter butterfly medals ceremony during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AP/PTI

US swimming champion Michael Phelps has a record 23 Olympic gold medals. He added the final one to his kitty on Saturday after winning the 4×100-meter medley relay for the United States. Phelps is done with all his 6 events at Rio. And he’s bagged 5 golds and a silver, taking his overall Olympics medal tally to 28 – 23 golds, 3 silver and 2 bronze.

Even though the American great has said that Rio is his fifth and final Olympics, one can never be sure if the super-fit swimmer will turn up at Tokyo in 2020.

This is not the first time Phelps has said that he is looking to move on. In 2012 too, the Olympian said he was retiring but hit the pool again a year later to make a comeback for one last hurrah after he felt that he wanted to bow out on his own terms.

“You know, I’ve been very fortunate and able to look back at my career and say I’ve been able to accomplish any goal I’ve ever wanted to, and I think at that point in your career I think it’s just time to move on,” said Phelps at Rio.

This time, Phelps sounded much more adamant when he said there will be no more comebacks.

“I still have that competitive side. It’s still the same with anything that I ever do…The last three months of my life have been some of the hardest I’ve ever gone through and some of the biggest learning experiences I’ve ever had and learning a lot about myself and for this day I’m happy to be moving forward and I’ll continue to grow from this and continue on my path of recovery. You know the next couple of years are going to be very challenging and I’m very pleased and happy to have the great support that I have around me,” said the American hero.

Rio de Janeiro : United States' gold medal winner Michael Phelps competes in the men's 200-meter individual medley final during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AP/PTI

Rio de Janeiro : United States’ gold medal winner Michael Phelps competes in the men’s 200-meter individual medley final during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AP/PTI

In the 4×100-meter medley relay, Phelps swam the third butterfly leg to put United States ahead of the others while Nathan Adrian finished off the final freestyle lap to give the most successful Olympian his 23rd career gold medal.

After the win, Phelps hugged his team and raised his arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd, while an emotional Nicole Johnson, Phelps’ fiancee cradled their three-month-old baby.

Most of the US swim team was in the stands to watch Phelps bow out.

The victory came a day after a loss to Singapore’s Joseph Schooling in the 100m fly. On Saturday, 21-year-old Schooling defeated his long-time icon to bag the gold as Phelps settled for a silver.

But at Rio, one of Phelps’ biggest feats was to win back the men’s 200m butterfly title that South African Chad Le Clos took from him four years ago in London. After taking that gold last Wednesday, Phelps had declared ‘mission achieved’.

“…records are meant to be broken, no matter what they are. Anybody can do anything they set their mind to. You know I said it all along, you know I want to be the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz,” explained Phelps.

Even as the greatest Olympian of all time bowed out on Saturday, his fans will be hoping against hope for his comeback, especially after Phelps’ team mate Anthony Ervin won the 50 freestyle gold on Friday at the age of 35, 16 years after he first won it. And Phelps is only 31.