Michael Phelps brought the curtain down on one of sport’s most storied careers Saturday with a dynamite relay swim to give himself a final tally of 23 Olympic gold medals.
The American, far and away the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, finished with five golds and a silver in Rio after signing off in dramatic style by coming to his team’s rescue in the 4x100m medley relay.
After a glittering career in the pool, we pick out Phelps’ five great Olympic moments.
1. It was swimming’s race of the century: 19-year-old emerging star Phelps up against the great Ian Thorpe and compatriot Grant Hackett and defending Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 200m freestyle in Athens. Phelps set an American record but finished third. The defeat only fueled Phelps – who set a world record in a dominant 200m freestyle triumph four years later in Beijing.
2. Phelps’ seventh gold medal in Beijing came by the narrowest of margins, in a scintillating duel with Milorad Cavic — the tough-talking Serbian who said he’d like to go down in history as “some guy” who spoiled Phelps’s eight-gold bid. In the lone final in which he failed to set a world record, Phelps beat Cavic by one one-hundredth of a second. It wasn’t Phelps’ first close-run 100m fly gold. In Athens, he beat world record-holding teammate Ian Crocker by four one-hundredths of a second.
3. Phelps’ 200m butterfly triumph in Beijing was a master-class in discipline and technique as Phelps swam most of it blind when water filled his goggles but still set a world record.
4. Just as he had in Athens and Beijing, Phelps had to rally in London to win a third straight 100m butterfly, coming off the turn in seventh and powering home to turn the tables on South African Chad le Clos — who had beaten him at the last stroke in the 200m fly. The victory gave Phelps his 17th Olympic gold.
5. Phelps wrested back the 200m butterfly crown in Rio — avenging his defeat to le Clos who faded to finish fifth and returning to the top in the event that started it all. The win made Phelps the oldest individual swimming gold medallist in Olympic history at 31. There to share it were fiancee Nicole Johnson and three-month-old son Boomer, whose kiss from his teary dad melted hearts at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson stormed to victory in the women’s 100m here Saturday to end the Olympic reign of compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Thompson, 24, got off to a flying start and quickly surged to the front to cross in 10.71sec, punching the air and embracing training partner Fraser-Pryce at the finish.
Tori Bowie of the United States took silver with 10.83sec while Fraser-Pryce claimed bronze in 10.86.
“When I crossed the line and glanced across to see I was clear (I) didn’t quite know how to celebrate,” a jubilant Thompson said.
“There is a big screen back home in my community in Jamaica. I can’t imagine what is happening there right now.”
The win ended 29-year-old Fraser-Pryce’s hopes of a hat-trick of 100m titles after her gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
Instead it was Thompson who confirmed herself as the next star of Jamaican women’s sprinting with an imperious display at the Olympic Stadium.
“What I’m most happy about is that the 100m title is staying in Jamaica,” said Fraser-Pryce, who took to the track with her hair dyed in Jamaica’s national colours.
“I’m on the podium with my training partner. I’m proud of Jamaica – just look at my hair,” Fraser-Pryce said.
Exploding out of the blocks, Thompson quickly edged clear of the field and the powerfully built runner never looked like relinquishing her grip on the contest.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou finished just outside the medals in fourth while flying Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers, widely seen as a strong favourite for the 200m, was fifth in 10.90sec.
Two other women — Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago and the USA’s English Gardner — also dipped under 11 seconds with times of 10.92sec and 10.94 respectively.
It was the first time in track and field history that seven women have gone under 11 seconds in a single race.
Nada Al Bedwawi, the UAE’s first female Olympic swimmer, has plans to encourage more young girls to take up swimming as she believes its time the nation took “progressive” measures to make advances in the field of sport.
Al Bedwawi, who swam in the 50m freestyle heats on Friday, is keen to play an inspirational role for the younger generation at home and has ideas on how to get more girls to participate in sport.
“I thought about my high school, and how they didn’t really care about PE in general and how it was a subject that everyone would get a 100 in,” Al Bedwawi told Sport360.
“So I thought maybe have a compulsory, preferably Olympic sport, that each student must take, like swimming, judo, fencing, etc. “Because if young girls don’t even try then they wouldn’t even know they have a passion in a certain sport.”
Asked what she thinks is the main factor hindering females from practicing sport in the UAE, the 19-year-old NYU Abu Dhabi student said: “Probably cultural reasons. And for that we need to target parents and such, but it’s hard to do that, so both my parents and I are trying to think of a way to get to them.”
Al Bedwawi placed third in her 50m free heat with a modest time of 33.42 seconds. She was the flagbearer for the UAE in the opening ceremony.
“It was a really nice and overwhelming experience,” said Al Bedwawi of her journey in Rio. “It’s not as scary as I thought and – I don’t know how to say this but – back in the UAE you don’t see many swimmers, especially for me as a girl, I don’t see other female swimmers.
“But once I go there (to the Olympics) I know I’m not alone and that there are millions around the world who share the same passion, and that it is possible for us, UAE nationals, to be regarded like American, Russian and other athletes.
“We have the same facilities as they do, all we need is a change in the mentality. “The UAE has been progressive in many fields, and now it’s time for us to focus on sports.”