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Michael Phelps climbed out of the Olympic pool for the last time (so he claims) on Saturday afternoon, taking with him his 18th gold and 22nd Olympic medal. In case you were wondering, that’s four more than anyone, ever.
The decorated USA swimmer swam the third leg of the 4×100 medley relay — his token butterfly. When he entered the pool, USA was trailing Japan. Takeshi Matsuda led the way to the turn, but Phelps powered past him, putting Team USA back in first place and giving Nathan Adrian the room he needed to bring home the gold.
Phelps inspired a generation, and USA won’t want for Olympic swimmers to cheer on. There’s the rest of the relay team, for starters: Matt Grevers, Brendan Hansen, and Adrian, who many predict to be the next favorite, albeit without the Phelps-talent to back it up. Missy Franklin, 17, has been called “the female Phelps,” and 15-year-old Katie Ledecky won her first gold and nearly broke the world record in the 800 freestyle on Friday. And let’s not forget Ryan Lochte, the confident (some might say cocky) 28-year-old who has been declaring that it’s “his time” for months. The grill-wearing swimmer might not be America’s next golden boy, but at least we’ve got options.
Is this truly the last we’ll see of Michael? His mother, Debbie, has been very outspoken about wanting her son competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but Phelps insists that he’s retiring for good. I guess 22 medals is enough.
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