"Last time was his last, this time was his last, and I get to say I was on the same team twice when he retired", Ledecky said teasingly Saturday afternoon, shortly before Phelps made his final relay swim in the Rio Games.
Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky & Co. made sure the US stayed firmly atop the swimming world.
"Getting off the bus and walking to the pool tonight, I pretty much felt myself starting to crack", he said as he approached his final night of Olympic competition.
After one race in 2015, Phelps told the handful of us reporters who were there: "In the present moment, it is frustrating and tough at times".
Phelps swam the butterfly third leg of a tight race, pushing the United States from second behind Great Britain up to first before freestyle specialist Nathan Adrian saw it home for gold in an Olympic record time of three minutes 27.95 seconds. Fiancee Nicole Johnson gave birth to their son, Boomer, in May.
Most of the US swim team was in the stands to watch Phelps' finale, including the biggest female star of the games, Katie Ledecky, decked out in a matching United States of America white jacket and cap. The 41-year-old is competing in her seventh Olympics.
The comeback endured a huge setback with his second drunken-driving arrest in 2014, which led to Phelps being banned from the world championships the following year. But it also sparked a turnaround in his personal life.
Friends, fellow swimmers, and longtime coach Bob Bowman indicate that the swimming phenom has undergone a transformation that has enabled him to be much more of a team leader. "That human spirit, that capacity to heal".
That was his 23rd career gold medal and places the Republic of Phelps in a tie with South Africa for 38th place for most gold medals won by a country, all-time, Summer and Winter Games combined.
Took a starring role, in fact.
"There's a lot of talk about this perplexing question of retirement", Ervin says. But this time around he started reaching out, reaching out to other people, bringing them closer, letting that gap be bridged.
To put this in perspective, no other Olympian has more than nine golds.
Murphy, who won two backstroke golds in Rio, put the Americans out front with a world-record split - it counts since he was leading off - before Britain surged ahead on the breaststroke with its own world-record holder, Adam Peaty.
Then he dived in and did what Michael Phelps does, helping the usa to gold in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays, avenging his 2012 200m fly loss to le Clos and notching his fourth straight 200m individual medley title.
He wouldn't be for long.
It wasn't in doubt after that. Australia took the bronze, reports Xinhua.
Simone Manuel comfortably anchored her team to victory, seeing off Australia in second and Denmark in third. "It's a nice number".
While competitions wrap up in swimming and rowing, they're just heating up in track and field, which will award five golds: for the women's 100 meter sprint and the heptathlon, and the men's 10,000 meters, discus and long jump. She finished in 24.07 seconds.
He is a swimming sensation and at the age of 15 he became youngest American to participate in Olympics games in 68 years. He did not win any medal in his first Games in Sydney. James Connolly won the first for the U.S.in 1896, and of course no one has added more to the total than Phelps.
With defending champion Sun Yang failing to make it to the final, Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri would win gold in the men's 1,500-meter freestyle, in a time of 14 minutes, 34.57 seconds.
Phelps was in a similar place a few years back, a half-hearted swimmer whose only form of relaxation seemed to come from a pipe or a bottle, and who went days at a time without showing up at the pool.