You'll probably hear something about how Saturday's 4x100m medley relay was the final swim of Michael Phelps' preposterously illustrious career. But lost in the narrative was a very intriguing race for the United States -- thanks in large part to a spectacular leg by Phelps himself.
The United States had pretty much everything going for them on paper before the event. Matt Grevers, Nathan Adrian and Phelps had each won individual golds in the 10- meter versions of their strokes while Brendan Hansen was the black sheep of the team with only an individual bronze in London.
Grevers did his part, by giving the United States a lead both at the 50m and 100m marks, with his 52.58 split putting him .34 seconds up on Japan's Ryosuke Irie -- although it wasn't quite on the pace of the 52.16 that won Grevers gold earlier in the week. However, Hansen was tested by Kosuke Kitajima who turned in a 58.64 second split, which would have been good for silver in the 100m breaststroke event, where Kitajima took fifth. That left Japan by in the lead by .21 seconds with half of the race in the books.
But Phelps was having none of it in his last race. He had nearly caught up to Japan's Takeshi Matsuda by the turn of the fly, and blew past him underwater. He gave the United States a .26-second lead. Yes, in his final race, it was Phelps that gave his team the decisive leg, putting them in first with a leg to go. It just makes sense.
Adrian followed that up with a ridiculous 46.85 split in the race's final leg. (For comparison, his gold-medal winning swim in the 100m freestyle took 47.52 seconds.) Phelps gave him a lead of a tad over a quarter of a second, he touched to finish the race with a 1.91-second lead, body lengths ahead of the competition.
Phelps took the moment to look back on his career, as FINA head Julio Maglione gave him a nice silver trophy to commemorate his career, apparently thinking his 22 medals and 18 golds meant he didn't have enough shiny stuff on his mantle. (He probably has several mantles at this point.)
“I could probably sum it up in a couple words,” Phelps said of his career accomplishments. “I did it.”
“I’ve been able to do everything I’ve wanted,” Phelps said. “I’ve been able to put my mind to the goals that I wanted to achieve. ... If you can say that about your career, there’s no need to move foward.”
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