When Is Michael Phelps' Last Olympic Race? Rio Could Be This Swimmer's Final Competition
There have been plenty of deep, engrossing stories to follow in these Olympic games, from the events to the athletes who've made history, shattered records, and inspired millions, to say nothing of that whole green pool thing. Suffice to say, it's been a busy week for any avid Olympics enthusiast. But now one of the biggest names in Olympic history is about to depart, and it could be the last time you'll ever see him swim at this level. So if you're wondering when Michael Phelps' last Olympic race is, do yourself a favor and carve out some time on Aug. 13.
That's right: Saturday, Aug. 13 will be the final time Phelps takes to the pool in these Olympic games, his last chance to win yet another gold medal. It's not his final individual event, to be clear ― that's the 100-meter butterfly, which will be taking place on Friday, Aug. 12 at 9:12 p.m. ET. Make no mistake, that'll be a dramatic and essential race to watch, as it could very well be Phelps' last Olympic event as an individual competitor.
Then. on Saturday, at 10:04 p.m. ET, he'll be sliding into the pool for potentially the last time in his Olympic career, participating in the 4x100-meter medley relay for Team USA. If he manages to take gold in both of his remaining events and decides to retire, he'd finish his Olympic career with a staggering 24 gold medals, by far the most in history.
It's worth bearing in mind that this isn't necessarily Phelps' last Olympic Games, or it doesn't have to be, at least. Phelps is widely suspected to retire after Rio, but his chief American rival throughout his unprecedented run of dominance, Ryan Lochte, seems pretty confident that he'll be back. He guaranteed Phelps would return for yet another Olympics run, this time in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, according to an interview with NBC's Today Show.
But however confident Lochte might be right now, there's simply no way to know for sure whether Phelps will consider that. He's already competed in four consecutive Olympics ― 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing, 2012 in London, and now 2016 in Rio ― and he'll be 35 years old by the time the Tokyo games roll around. That's a pretty advanced age for an elite swimmer, and perhaps more significantly, it'd demand so much time spent training. Would Phelps truly want to keep that grueling pace for another four years of his life, clear through to his late-30s? With a small mountain of gold medals already in his grasp, don't be shocked if this ends up being your last chance to see a legend in action.