Phelps out on a golden high

LONDON - "Before the race, I didn't say anything else other than 'let's go out and win it'."

After winning 17 Olympic gold medals in his total of 21, Michael Phelps wasn't going to let a fact that he was about to swim the last race of his competitive career disturb his concentration or ambition when there was another medal on offer.

Michael Phelps of the US poses with his gold medal after winning the men's 4x100m medley relay final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. Phelps ended his incredible Olympic career on the perfect note on Saturday, winning his 18th gold medal for the United States in the men's medley relay, the last time he will swim a competitive race. Swimming the butterfly leg, the most decorated Olympian of all time went out as the ultimate winner when he joined forces with Matt Grevers, Brendan Hansen and Nathan Adrian to crush their opponents and win the gold.

Phelps drew the curtain on his magnificent career Saturday by claiming his 18th gold medal - the 22nd Olympic medal.

He did so fittingly as part of the US 4X100 medley relay team which won the final indoor race of these Olympic Games.

Phelps followed Michael Grevers and Brandon Hansen into the water, swimming the butterfly leg, while 100 meters freestyle winner, Nathan Adrian had the job of swimming the US home and assuring Phelps' story ended on a the highest of notes.

Grevers swam the US into a lead, ahead of Japan, but Kosuke Kitajim pressured well in the second leg and Phelps dived into the water in second place going head to head with Katsumi Matsuda and overhauling him before the final change.

Once in the water Adrian knew he had to assure Phelps' story had the ending it deserved and he powered home to victory.

"I don't think in Olympic history the USA have ever lost this race. I finished my career how I wanted to," said Phelps afterwards.

Japan won silver, while Australia had to settle for bronze, a result which just about sums up their performance in the pool over the past week.

However, Saturday's final was not about anything or anyone else than Phelps, who will leave London with 4 gold medals. It is only half the total he won in Beijing 4 years ago, but more than enough to be able to call him the greatest Olympic swimmer and perhaps the greatest Olympian, of all time, something recognized when he was given the lifetime achievement award by FINA, the international governing body for swimming, although Phelps admitted having his own sporting heroes.

"It's kind of weird looking at this as it says 'The greatest Olympian of all time.' All my career I have looked up to (basketball player) Michael Jordan," said Phelps, who then discussed his decision to retire aged 27.

"I have been able to do everything that I've wanted. I told myself I did not want to swim when I'm 30 (years old). That will be in three years' time, and I don't want to be swimming then," he said, insistent that his decision would not change.

"I don't care what others say about it (retirement). As long as I could say I have gone out at the top that's all that matters," he said, looking back on his incredible medal haul.

"I have been able to do things that others have never been able to," continued the American, who admitted his achievements and retirement had not yet sunk in: "The memories I have got from the last few weeks will never go away and one day I'll be able put it into the diary."

"We're at the biggest sporting event in the world. To go out and have fun is not something you can experience every day," he concluded.

( Xinhua)