“I wanted to change the sport and take it to another level.
"It's kind of weird looking at this and seeing 'Greatest Olympian of All Time.' I finished my career the way I wanted to. It think that pretty cool."
--Michael Phelps, after collecting his 22nd Olympic medal and 18th gold as member of the USA men's 4x100 meter medley relay team. at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Missy Franklin, 17, who competed in seven swimming events in London, the most ever by a female Olympic swimmer, attributes her drive and ambition to Phelps, who made such a championship training regimen seem not only feasible but fun.
“He has done a world of difference for swimming,” Franklin said. “He has really brought swimming onto the scene and gotten so many more people involved. Just what he’s done is incredible, and he’s kind of made people rethink the impossible — rethink what they can do and how they can push themselves.”
She added: “I don’t think his shoes will ever be filled. I think his footsteps are huge. Hopefully, I can make little paths next to his.”
Le Clos, 20, said he watched Phelps win six golds and two bronzes at the Athens Olympics and was inspired to become a champion swimmer. It was not a coincidence that Le Clos swam six events in London, including the same four individual ones as Phelps. After watching Phelps win a record eight golds in Beijing, Le Clos added more events to his program to be like Mike. On Tuesday, he pulled off a monumental upset when he handed Phelps his first major international defeat in 10 years in the 200-meter butterfly.
“That’s why I was so emotional afterwards,” Le Clos said. “He was the reason I swam the butterfly. It’s not a joke. If you think about it, it’s kind of crazy.” He added: “That’s why I swim the 200 freestyle, both the I.M.’s. I don’t swim it for any other reason than just because Michael does.”
Phelps got choked up when he heard that he was Le Clos’s hero and role model, Bob Bowman, Phelps' long-time coach said. “It means Michael’s done what he wanted to do: affect the sport of swimming,” Bowman added.
Among those he turned back in the butterfly final was Milorad Cavic of Serbia, who nearly outtouched him in 2008. “I cannot be compared to Michael Phelps,” Cavic said. “I’m a one-trick pony. He does it all."