Michael Phelps has left the pool.
Swimming the butterfly leg for the U.S. team in the men's 4x100-meter medley relay, Phelps has completed his program at the London Olympics -- and his swimming career -- with yet another gold medal. That makes 18 gold and 22 total medals over four career trips to the Olympics, including a pair of unprecedented individual three-peats. Having accomplished more than any other Olympian in history, the 27-year-old from Maryland is ready to walk away.
"I told myself I never want to swim when I'm 30," Phelps told reporters after his final race, making it clear that he won't be back in the pool for the 2016 Olympics. "No offense to those people who are 30, but that was something I always said to myself, and that would be in three years. I just don't want to swim for those three years."
Entering the London Olympics, the U.S. had never lost the 4x100-meter medley relay. The American team swam in the fourth lane after recording the fastest qualifying time (3:32.65). Turning over the team after that performance, the swimmers representing the U.S. in the final were among the most impressive of the London Games. Phelps swam the fly leg and was joined by Matt Grevers (who had won gold in backstroke), Nathan Adrian (who won gold in freestyle) and Brendan Hansen (who won bronze in the breaststroke). Not surprisingly, this star-studded quartet captured the gold medal, finishing in 3:29.35.
Leading off with the backstroke, Grevers staked the U.S. team to an early lead. Swimming second, Hansen swam the breaststroke but surrendered the lead to the Japanese team. The U.S. trailed only briefly, however, as Phelps grabbed first place back. In the anchor leg, Adrian extended the lead that Phelps' delivered. According to Swimming World, this was a "textile best" time for the men's 4x100-meter medley relay.
"I felt disappointed I couldn't give them a bigger lead, but I knew that with who was at the end of the relay it would be no problem," Grevers told Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports. "This is a moment I won't forget – being on that award podium with Michael Phelps on his final relay. He's my swimming idol. The guy is just incredible."
Before the race, Grevers tweeted about his excitement to be swimming in the final race of Phelps' historic career.
While Phelps' epic 8-for-8 performance at the Beijing Olympics may never be equalled, his haul of four gold medals and two silvers in 2012 makes him both the most decorated Olympian of all time as well as of the 2012 Games to this point.
"I don't think his shoes will ever be filled. They're so huge," U.S. swimming star Missy Franklin told reporters after Phelps' finale. "Hopefully I can make little paths next to him."
MICHAEL PHELPS CAREER OLYPIC MEDALS
|2004 Athens||Men's 200 meters Freestyle||Bronze|
|2004 Athens||Men's 4 × 100 meters Freestyle Relay||Bronze|
|2004 Athens||Men's 4 × 200 meters Freestyle Relay||Gold|
|2004 Athens||Men's 100 meters Butterfly||Gold**|
|2004 Athens||Men's 200 meters Butterfly||Gold**|
|2004 Athens||Men's 200 meters Individual Medley||Gold**|
|2004 Athens||Men's 400 meters Individual Medley||Gold*|
|2004 Athens||Men's 4 × 100 meters Medley Relay||Gold|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 200 meters Freestyle||Gold*|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 4 × 100 meters Freestyle Relay||Gold*|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 4 × 200 meters Freestyle Relay||Gold*|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 100 meters Butterfly||Gold**|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 200 meters Butterfly||Gold*|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 200 meters Individual Medley||Gold*|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 400 meters Individual Medley||Gold*|
|2008 Beijing||Men's 4 × 100 meters Medley Relay||Gold*|
|2012 London||Men's 4 x 100 meters Freestyle Relay||Silver|
|2012 London||Men's 200 meters Butterfly||Silver|
|2012 London||Men's 4 x 200 meters Freestyle Relay||Gold|
|2012 London||Men's 200 meters Individual Medley Final||Gold|
|2012 London||Men's 100 meters Butterfly Final||Gold|
|2012 London||Men's 4x100 meters Medley Relay||Gold|
|*World Record/**Olympic Record|
|Information via Sports-Reference|
Rulon Gardner - 2000 Sydney
American Rulon Gardner pulled off a stunning upset, defeating Russian wrestling icon Alexander Karelin to win the Olympic super heavyweight wrestling gold medal. <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/2000/wrestling/news/2000/09/27/gardner_upset_ap/" target="_hplink">He ended Karelin's 13-year unbeaten streak. </a>
Men's Basketball -- 1972 Munich
The gold medal basketball game between the U.S and the Soviet Union was marred by a controversial finish, with the <a href="http://espn.go.com/classic/s/Classic_1972_usa_ussr_gold_medal_hoop.html" target="_hplink">Soviets</a> scoring an unexpected upset thanks to some help from the scorer's table. The U.S. still hasn't accepted the silver medals.
Abebe Bikila - 1960 Rome
The Ethiopian marathoner became the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18862683" target="_hplink">first black African</a> to win an Olympic gold medal when <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1829863,00.html" target="_hplink">he famously ran barefoot</a> to victory.
Jesse Owens - 1936 Berlin
Jesse Owens <a href="http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016393.html" target="_hplink">won four gold medals</a> in Germany, providing a very public counterpoint to Adolf Hitler's views on Aryan superiority.
Greg Louganis - 1988 Seoul
American diver Greg Louganis suffered a concussion after accidentally hitting his head on the springboard during the diving preliminaries. Despite the frightening nature of the incident, <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0807/top.20.olympic.summer.moments/content.11.html" target="_hplink">he still went on to win two gold medals. </a>
Jim Thorpe - 1912 Stockholm
Jim Thorpe<a href="http://www.olympics30.com/30greatest/jim-thorpe-hero.asp" target="_hplink"> won both the pentathlon and decathlon</a> in Stockholm. His medals were stripped the next year when it was revealed that he had played some semi-professional baseball before the Olympics. The medals were reinstated in 1982.
Babe Didrikson - 1932 Los Angeles
A pioneering female athlete, Babe Didrikson was a multi-sport star throughout her life. In 1932, she won the <a href="http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00014147.html" target="_hplink">first women's Olympic javelin gold medal</a> while also capturing gold in the 80-meter hurdles.
Alice Coachman - 1948 London
In 1948, track star Alice Coachman became the <a href="http://www.teamusa.org/News/2012/January/01/London-Re-Calling-Home/London-ReCalling-Series-Alice-Coachman.aspx" target="_hplink">first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal </a>with a victory in the high jump.
Bob Beamon - 1968 Mexico City
Bob Beamon's amazing (and totally unexpected) leap broke the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2011/nov/23/50-stunning-olympic-bob-beamon" target="_hplink">long-jump world recor</a>d in the 1968. Beamon's flight was so unprecedented that judges had to get <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1081936/index.htm" target="_hplink">an old-fashioned measuring tape</a> to record it.
John Carlos and Tommie Smith - 1968 Mexico City
Track and field stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith made a fierce political statement and created an enduring image with their <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/feb/08/olympic-moments-tommie-smith-john-carlos" target="_hplink">defiant raised, gloved fists</a> after winning the gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meters in Mexico City.
Munich Massacre - 1972 Munich
In the darkest chapter in Olympic history, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--munich-massacre.html" target="_hplink">taken hostage and killed</a> by Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the 1972 Games.
Mary Decker - 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
Mary Decker was the heavy favorite to win gold in the women's 3,000-meter event, but got <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=moments/72" target="_hplink">tangled up with Zola Budd and fell to the ground. </a> Her agony on the track as the racers went on without her captured the passion of these athletes. <em>Correction: This slide previously misidentified the year of Decker's fall as 1976.</em>
Derek Redmond - 1992 Barcelona
Derek Redmond suffered a hamstring injury during the 400-meter semifinal but insisted on finishing the race. As he limped toward the finish line, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=moments/94" target="_hplink">his father emerged from the stands to</a> help him make it.
Nastia Liukin - 2008 Beijing
Nastia Liukin won the gold medal in the women's <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26211786/ns/beijing_olympics-beijing_olympics_news/t/nastia-liukin-wins-gold-all-around/#.UAX4QHBaK3k" target="_hplink">gymnastics all-around</a>, barely beating U.S. teammate Shawn Johnson.
Mary Lou Retton - 1984 Los Angeles
Mary Lou Retton became the <a href="http://www.marylouretton.com/new_site_biography.htm" target="_hplink">first American woman to win a gold medal </a>in gymnastics at the 1984 Games. All told, the petite dynamo <a href="http://www.ighof.com/honorees/1997_Mary_Lou_Retton.php" target="_hplink">won five medals</a> and a nation of new fans.
Muhammed Ali - 1996 Atlanta
The 1960 Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight boxing champion emerged as the <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/2012/1996-muhammad-ali-lights-the-flame.html" target="_hplink">surprise torchbearer to light the cauldron</a> and open the Atlanta Games. Known to be <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18088134" target="_hplink">suffering from Parkinson's disease</a>, Ali's presence became one of the most memorable aspects of those Games.
Kerri Strug - 1996 Atlanta
By sticking the landing in the vault <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--kerri-strugg--u-s--gymnastics--conquering-hero-of-the-olympic-ideal.html" target="_hplink">on an injured ankle, </a> Strug helped the US. gymnastics team win Olympic team gold.
Michael Johnson - 1996 Atlanta
Sporting a pair of gold shoes, Michael Johnson put on quite a show <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--michael-johnson-s-golden-runs-in-1996-live-on-in-olympic-history.html" target="_hplink">in Atlanta</a>, winning two gold medals and setting a world record in the 200 that last for more than a decade.
Usain Bolt - 2008 Beijing Olympics
The Jamaican track star <a href="http://www.usain-bolt.eu/usain-bolt-records/" target="_hplink">set world records </a>in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in a thoroughly dominant showing.
The Dream Team - 1992 Barcelona
Opponents of Team USA were more focused on getting photographs with the American players than beating them. Of course, this is probably for the best as there may not be a team that has ever played that could have matched up against a <a href="http://www.nba.com/history/dreamT_moments.html" target="_hplink">team able to mix and match Hall of Famers</a> like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird. The list goes on longer than the competitive portions of most games lasted.