frank busch

22 reasons to miss Michael Phelps

LONDON – When it all was officially over, when the 22nd medal had been won and there wasn’t an early-morning training session staring him in the face for the first time in his life, Michael Phelps broke down in tears.

He was in the warm-down pool at the time and all he was trying to do was say thanks to his longtime coach, Bob Bowman. With goggles covering his eyes, Phelps told Bowman how he had idolized Michael Jordan his entire life because Jordan was able to do things that no one else had ever done. Then he told his coach how he felt that what Jordan accomplished on the basketball court he was able to do in the pool.

22 medals. 18 gold. Eight world records. Zero regrets.

Then he said thank you. As the tears started to fall, Bowman barked that the sentimental moment wasn’t fair. While Phelps could hide his tears behind his goggles, Bowman’s streamed down his cheeks for everyone to see.

Phelps’ swimming career ended exactly the way it should have on Saturday night, with the lanky kid from Baltimore using the most famous butterfly stroke in history to turn a .22-second deficit into a .26-second lead that the Americans wouldn’t relinquish in the 4x100-meter medley relay. When it was over, FINA presented him with a trophy that had the title “Greatest Olympian of All Time” engraved on the front.

The claim is one that will be argued for decades. But no one can belittle the point that the sport of swimming will never be the same without its biggest star. In conjunction with the last night of Michael Phelps’ career, ESPN.com asked 22 different individuals – one for each of Phelps’ Olympic medals – to tell us what it is that they will miss most now that Michael Phelps’ swimming has come to an end.

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