Michael Phelps has won the 23rd gold medal of his Olympics career in the 4x100 team medley relay, ending his career on the high of a podium and leaving the world of swimming choked with emotion. The USA team won the gold medal keeping alive their tradition of being unbeatable in this race, winning the team medley for a consecutive nine times.
Phelps was swimming the butterfly leg, the third leg, of the race as part of the American team of Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Phelps and Nathan Adrien.
Murphy gave a great start to the USA, giving the team a big lead at the end of the first 100 metres, in the backstroke leg. However, it was Great Britain’s Adam Peaty who was the star of the second 100 metres, in the breastsroke leg. Not even in the top three at the end of the 100 metres, it was Peaty who pulled ahead of the rest of the pack to give Great Britain the lead at the halfway point of the race, with USA following at second.
In the butterfly leg, the third 100 meters, Phelps and GBR’s James Guy were neck and neck for the most part, having pulled ahead of the rest of the countries. However, right at the end, it was Phelps who pulled ahead of Guy, giving USA the lead. When Michael Phelps got in the pool, USA trailed by 0.61 seconds. When he finished, USA were leading by 0.41 seconds.
There was no change in position in the top 2 in the last 100 meters, the freestyle leg, as USA finished first and Great Britain finished second. It was Australia’s Kyle Chalmers who put in a great performance to pull ahead of the rest of the challengers and land his team a spot on the podium, Australia claiming the bronze medal.
USA claimed first place with a time of 3:27.95, scripting a new Olympic record in the process, one and a half seconds ahead of the rest. 2nd placed Great Britain finished with a time of 3:29.24, 3rd placed Australia registered 3:29.93. The margin of victory was comfortable at the end, but had it not been for Phelps’ pulling away from Guy in the butterfly leg, it would have been much closer.
Leaving aside the historic poignancy of the race, it had a lot of emotional value as well. This race has been billed up on the social media in the hours leading up to when Phelps walked out with the USA team one last time. For more than a decade, swimming enthusiasts have grown used to the fact that whenever Phelps walks out, he wins. On 13 August, that period can be called to have come to a close.
USA had won gold in every 4x100 metre medley since 1960, except in 1980 when they had boycotted the Moscow Olympic Games.
Phelps’ longtime friend and rival Ryan Lochte had given some hope to Phelps fans, by stating that the maverick has enough in him to compete in 2020 Tokyo Olympics as well. However, Phelps himself has dismissed all such suggestions, and coach Bob Bowman said before the race that Saturday was probably going to be the last chance to see Phelps in action.