Image Credit: David J. Phillip/AP
Day 8 of the Olympics was a bittersweet affair. Michael Phelps and his fellow Team USA swimmers butterflied, backstroked, breaststroked, and freestyled their way to another gold, in the 4×100 medley relay. But as stirring a victory as it was, there was an undeniable whiff of sadness at the thought that it would be the last time we’ll ever see Phelps in an Olympic race.
There are so many reasons to appreciate what the Baltimore Bullet has done for the sport: the unmatchable 22 medals, the fact that he’s pretty much single-handedly inspired a whole generation (hello, Chad le Clos!) to take to the pool. But his greatest legacy for a nation of sports fans, and pop culture junkies, is that he turned swimming into appointment TV. That’s something that hadn’t happened since the heyday of Mark Spitz, if even then. Every race Phelps swam was a must-watch event. I’ll never forget the exhilaration I felt at his 0.01-second victory in the 100 meter butterfly in Beijing, one of the truly unifying “Did you see it?” moments in recent sports history — really, recent TV history. Swimming needed its own Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, or Lance Armstrong, and Phelps delivered the goods in spectacular fashion. So it’s only natural that after his retirement at the very top of the game we’re all feeling today a little like…what now?
Luckily, Day 8 was packed with enough excitement to keep that melancholy at bay for as long as possible. Even before NBC’s primetime coverage got underway the day had been packed with citius, altius, fortius delights. READ FULL STORY »