LONDON — American superstar swimmer Michael Phelps closed out his brilliant career with a gold medal, swimming the butterfly leg of the victorious U.S. men’s 4x100 meter medley relay team.
It was the final race in the pool at these Summer Games and gave Phelps a remarkable all-time Olympics career record of 18 gold medals among his remarkable 22 total. No one else has more than nine golds.
“Through the ups and downs through my career, I’ve still been able to do everything that I’ve wanted to accomplish. And I’ve been able to do things that nobody has ever done, and that’s been something I’ve always I wanted to do," he said.
The previous all-time total for Olympic medals was 18 held by former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
At his post-race news conference, Phelps was asked how he would describe his place in Olympic history, and he shared a conversation he had with longtime coach Bob Bowman.
“I was in the warm-down pool and I said to Bob, I’ve looked up to Michael Jordan my whole life because he’s done something that no one has ever done and he is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game," he said. "And I said, ‘you know what, I’ve been able to become the best swimmer of all-time, and we got here together.’ And I thanked him. And it was funny, when I got out of the pool, he was like, ‘that’s not fair.’ And I said, ‘What’s not fair about it?’ And he goes, ‘you were in the pool. I was like ‘yeah, my tears could hide behind my goggles. Yours are streaming down your face.’”
At age 27, Michael Phelps says he is done with competitive swimming.
At age 17, Missy Franklin is the rising star of the U.S. women’s swim team. She captured her fourth gold medal of the Olympics by helping lead the U.S. to victory in the women’s 4x100 meter medley relay. The quartet posted a time of 3:52.05 seconds, breaking the world record set by China in 2009 by .14 seconds.
The U.S. women gave each other a big group hug on the pool deck after the win, and Franklin said they were almost at a loss for words.
“I don’t really think we said anything. I think just that hug said it all, just being together and being in each other’s arms and knowing that it was done and our Olympic experience of 2012 was over. And we couldn’t be more happy with how we finished it, just knowing that we were all there together, just savoring that moment of being world record holders and gold medalists for our country," she said.
The other world record on the final night came in the men’s 1,500 meter freestyle, China’s Sun Yang clocked 14:31.02, bettering his own mark of last year (14:34.14) by more than three seconds.
The gold medal in the men’s 50 meter freestyle went to Dutchman Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
The United States dominated the London Olympics swimming competition. The American men’s and women’s teams each won eight gold medals, or half of the races contested. Together they won 30 total medals of the 96 handed out. Seventeen countries in all won swimming medals.
There are still two more swimming contests, but they are the 10-kilometer marathon events that take place in open water. The women compete Thursday and the men on Friday.
Track & Field in Full Swing
Meanwhile, British runner Mo Farah has won the 10,000-meters competition, holding off American training partner Galen Rupp and Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele, who finished third.
Earlier, a packed track and field stadium roared as Briton Jessica Ennis clinched the heptathlon competition with a win in the 800 meters. Britain's medal tally places it third in the overall standings, behind the United States and China.
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius also strode into Olympic history Saturday, becoming the first amputee runner to compete in the Games.
Pistorius, who wears special prosthetics on both legs, finished second in a preliminary heat of the men's 400 meters. He qualified for the semi-finals.
Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce retained her Olympic title by winning the gold medal in the women's 100-meter race. She clocked 10.75 seconds to beat American Carmelita Jeter, who crossed the finish line at 10.78 seconds. Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown took the bronze in 10.81.
Photo Gallery: Michael Phelps
Photo Gallery: Day 8 of Competition