When you’re the greatest Olympian of all time, it’s a challenge to find new ways to top yourself. After setting a record in gold-medal wins in Beijing, Michael Phelps wanted to make a new mark in London: the most decorated Olympian ever. And even with an uncharacteristic fourth-place finish in his first race, Phelps ended up accomplishing just that, closing out his career with his 18th gold medal (and 22nd medal overall) in the men’s 4-by-100-m medley relay. For eight years, both diehard fans and those new to the sport have been lured to the pool to satisfy their “will he or won’t he” curiosity, and they were rewarded by witnessing history. FINA, the international swimming federation, recognized Phelps’ achievements with a first-ever trophy to commemorate his unique status in both the sport and the Olympic movement. “I’ve been able to do everything I wanted,” said Phelps, who retired in London, of his history-making career. And now legions of new swimming fans can’t help but ask, What will we do in Rio?
Thanks for liking TIME’s Top 10 Everything of 2012 List. Like TIME on Facebook now for more breaking news and current events from around the globe.
Top 10 Sports Moments