After capturing his 22nd gold medal (and 26th overall) in the 200-meter individual medley on Thursday, Phelps collected his 13th individual event win, becoming the athlete with most individual event wins since 152 B.C.
The previous titleholder was Leonidas of Rhodes, who won 12 individual events over four Olympics. Leonidas garnered his last three golds in the stadion (a 200-meter sprint), the diaulos (a 400-meter run) and the hoplite race (a run performed while wearing armor).
In addition, Thursday’s 200-meter individual medley victory was Phelps’ fourth consecutive win in that discipline. He joins track and field Olympians Al Oerter and Carl Lewis as the only Americans to win an individual event four times.
“I had a hard time holding it together, very special getting able to win 22 gold medals,” Phelps said about holding back tears on the podium. “It’s something you dream of, I’m living a dream come true. It’s exactly how I want to exit the sport.”
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Rio is Phelps’ fifth and likely final Olympics. He began his Olympic journey at the age of 15 and became the youngest male to make a U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years.
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During his nearly 20 years of competitions, he’s gotten a number of records for the modern Olympics, which began in 1894: the most medals of any athlete in Olympic history, the most gold medals in any one Olympic Games (eight in Beijing), as well as world records in a number of events including the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly, the 400-meter individual medley, and the 4×100-meter and 4×200-meter freestyle relays.
Now, he also has as many medals as a nation of 1.25 billion people (India) in both summer and winter Games.
And Phelps is not done yet! He will compete in the men’s 100-meter butterfly finals on Friday.