Olympics 2012: Michael Phelps ends career with gold, No. 18, in medley relay

Leaves sport with 22 medals

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Bouncing back from a disappointing first race in London, a fourth-place finish in the 400 individual medley,Phelps wound up with more medals than any other swimmer at the games: four golds and two silvers.

Sounds familiar.

“Honestly, the first race kind of took the pressure off,” Bowman said. “If it’s not going to go too well, we should at least have fun while we’re here. That helped us relax a little bit, then he started swimming well in the relays and he picked it up again.”

Grevers had the Americans in front on the opening backstroke leg, but Kosuke Kitajima put Japan slightly ahead going against Hansen in the breaststroke. Not to worry, not with Phelps going next.

He surged through the water in the fly, handing off a lead of about a quarter of a second to Adrian for the freesytle anchor. The Americans won going away in 3 minutes, 29.35 seconds, just off their own Olympic record from Beijing. Japan held on for silver in 3:31.26, with Australia taking the bronze in 3:31.68.

The U.S. men had never lost the medley relay at the Olympics, and they weren’t about to now on the final night of swimming at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, on the final night for such a momentous athlete.

How momentous? The governing body of swimming, FINA, broke with Olympic protocol to present Phelps with an award recognizing his entire body of work. While a video montage played on the board, he made one more victory lap around the pool, even stopping off again at the medal podium he spent so much time on during the Olympics.

“Wow,” he said. “I couldn’t ask to finish on a better note.”

Phelps kept a journal during his last Olympics. He was asked what he would write in it on this day.

“I could probably sum it up in a couple words — I did it,” he said. “I haven’t written too much this week. I’m kind of taking everything in.”

One of the moments he’ll remember: All the swimmers from the other relay teams lining up to shake his hand behind the blocks once he was done.

“It’s kind of cool,” Phelps said. “The best part of the Olympics is you have people coming from all over the world competing in the best sporting event ever. That’s just something you don’t see every day.”

We may never see the likes of Phelps again.

Of course, he was peppered with questions about a possible comeback, in a year when Ian Thorpe and Janet Evans both failed in their attempts to make it back to the Olympics after long layoffs.

“I don’t think so,” Bowman said. “We’ve had a great end to a great run and there’s not much more he can do. I guess if he finds after a few years he’s searching for something and thinks he can find it in swimming, he could look at it. But I don’t think he will. I think he’s ready to explore other things. He’s done all he can do here.”

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