A stunner in Rio: Phelps beaten by 21-year-old in 100 fly

Published 11:55 am Saturday, August 13, 2016

Michael Phelps is used to being in a league of his own.

So it was strange to see him, after what he insists was his final individual race as an Olympian, crowding onto a medal stand with two other swimmers.

And it wasn’t even the top step.

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In a changing of the guard that left him totally at peace, Phelps was beaten Friday by a 21-year-old who grew up idolizing the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. Joseph Schooling of Singapore built a big lead in the 100-meter butterfly and easily held off one of Phelps’ patented comebacks, leaving him at 22 gold medals with one race, a relay, left to go.

And that will be his final event, Phelps insisted.

No more comebacks.

“I’m not going four more years and I’m standing by that,” he said. “I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever put my mind to in the sport and after 24 years in the sport, I’m happy with how things finished.”

While Phelps wasn’t all that persuasive when he first retired after the 2012 London Games — and, indeed, he began eyeing a return to swimming about a year later — the big hug for Schooling and the huge smile when it was done told a different story this time.

He’s a father now, to 3-month-old Boomer. He’ll soon be marrying his fiancee, Nicole Johnson.

He’s ready to move on, and this time he really seems to mean it.

“I’m happy,” Phelps said. “I’m ready to spend some time with Boomer and Nicole and watch the little dude grow.”

This being Phelps, he had to do something out of the ordinary, even in defeat.