London 2012 Olympics: Ultimate golden boy Phelps bows out with tribute to coach
SATURDAY night saw the exit of arguably the greatest Olympian in history as Michael Phelps bowed out of the sport having collected 18 gold medals and 22 overall.
The 27-year-old started his Olympic career as a 15-year-old in Sydney in 2000, where he was fifth in the 200m butterfly. Six gold and two bronze medals followed in Athens before his historic eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008.
His London Games did not start off so well with fourth place in the 400m individual medley – his worst result since Sydney – and he was shocked into second by Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly. However, the Baltimore swimmer won the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley – where he outgunned team-mate Ryan Lochte – as well as taking the titles in the 4x200m freestyle and medley relay and silver in the 4x100m freestyle.
Texts and phone calls came from the likes of US president Barack Obama, and Phelps was presented with a FINA lifetime achievement award by president Julio Maglione inscribed with the words: “To Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic athlete of all time. From FINA. August 4 2012. London, Great Britain.”
At a packed press conference afterwards, Phelps revealed what he had said to Bob Bowman, who had coached him since the age of 11, when he completed his final warm-up.
Phelps told Bowman: “I have looked up to Michael Jordan all my life. He became the best basketball player there ever was. I’ve been able to become the best swimmer of all time, we got here together. Thank you.”
He continued: “I owe Bob so much. I love him to death and I’m thankful to have had someone who cares so much for me and who put up with all my crap for 15 years. I can’t thank him enough.”
The Baltimore swimmer now intends to travel and remain heavily involved with his swimming foundation. Of how he was feeling after his final swim, Phelps said: “It’s hard to put into words. I did everything I wanted to and finished my career how I wanted to.”
While Phelps’ retirement commanded the spotlight, the rest of his United team-mates enjoyed great success, heading the medal table with 30 medals: 16 golds, eight silver and six bronze, as well as setting five of the nine world records.
Phelps claimed six medals, of which four were gold, while his Baltimore team-mate Allison Schmitt also visited the podium six times, topping it on three occasions. Missy Franklin, 17, won five medals – four gold – and Ryan Lochte will also take home five, including two titles.
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