Michael Phelps’ last individual event wasn’t a golden one, but his signature smile did not fade.
Phelps lost the top spot on the Olympic podium for the first time ever in the Men’s 100m butterfly event – and for the first time during his incredible run in Rio.
Joseph Schooling, a 21-year-old from Singapore, took home the gold with a record time of 50.39 seconds.
Three-quarters of a second later, Phelps touched the wall at the same moment as South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, all three recording a time of 51.14 seconds.
‘It is a wild way to end my individual career. It is just wild,’ Phelps said after the race. I was like ‘Three? Three of us tied for third?’
The race had been billed as a clash between Phelps and le Clos.
But Schooling looked stunned and humbled as he claimed his tiny nation state’s first ever Olympic gold medal after racing Phelps, his childhood hero.
Schooling was born in Singapore, but went to school in Jacksonville, Florida before attending the University of Texas.
‘It was just a thrill to swim against Michael Phelps and all those guys,’ he said after the shock win. ‘I’m just ecstatic. I don’t think it has set in yet. It’s just crazy.’
Phelps hardly looked dejected as he claimed his silver, linking arms with le Clos as all three swimmers enjoyed rapturous applause.
The Greatest of All Time said he was happy to have finished his Olympic solo career by tying with two of his closest rivals.
‘A three-way tie is pretty wild,’ he said. ‘It’s faster than I went, I think, four years ago to win. Joe is tough.’
‘He had a great year last year and has had a really great last two years so hats off to him. He swam a great race.’
Phelps added: ‘Well I saw second next to my name and then I looked up again and then I looked over at Laszlo and Chad like, huh, we all tied for second, that’s kind of cool.
‘Chad and I have had some races over the last four years and Laszlo and I – I can’t even remember when our first race was.
‘Probably as long as Ryan (Lochte) and I. So kind of special and a decent way to finish my last race. I can’t complain too much.’
Schooling, meanwhile, smiled and tried to take in the enormity of his win as the gold was placed around his neck and the unfamiliar national anthem of Singapore rang out.
The young swimmer clasped his chest, sang along and fought back tears before punching the air as he took a lap around the aquatic arena.
He still looked awestruck as Phelps congratulated him warmly, scarcely able to believe he had beaten the Team USA legend.
‘I’m sorry if I don’t seem like I’m full of emotions but I don’t know what to believe – that I actually did it or I’m still preparing for my race. I’m between the two of them,’ Schooling said.
‘I need to let this moment sink in, realize what I’ve done and then I’ll have a better understanding of what I accomplished.’
‘But right now all I can say is I’m really honored and privileged to have an opportunity to race in an Olympic final alongside huge names like Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh, guys that have redefined the sport.’
Phelps still has a chance to end his Olympic career on a golden note, as he will race in the Men’s 4×100 medley relay.
He has already won gold in the Men’s 200m medley, as well as the 200m butterfly, 4×100 freestyle relay and 4×200 freestyle relay.
If Team USA takes the win, the 31-year-old will retire with 23 Olympic gold medals and 28 medals total.
But Phelps’ teammates are already hoping he will change his mind and return to the games in Tokyo four years from now.
Rio has turned out to be an incredible swan song for Phelps, who had originally planned to retire after the London 2012 games.
‘I hope that Michael can stay around long enough for me to race him again,’ Le Clos said after their race on Friday. ‘I’d love that’.
Phelps however insists he is done.
‘Done. Chad asked me in the award area and the Dwyers were chanting ‘four more years.’
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Anneta Konstantinides and Ben Ashford