RIO DE JANEIRO—While much of the attention of the Summer Olympics has centered on Ryan Lochte, three individuals have captured the spotlight in Rio. Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Simone Biles have left their mark here and the world will remember their names for quite some time.
Phelps has called it quits at age 31 and in his fourth Olympics. The legendary swimmer will leave with five gold medals and one silver, and his 23 career gold medals may not ever be topped. But Phelps has also transcended the sport with his grace and spirit.
In a way, Phelps has also seen his stock rise by being a family man at a time when swimmers have gained a reputation for being irresponsible. In his final press conference, Phelps discussed being a proud Baltimorean, water safety and spending time with this family. After so much winning, now he can see more time with his 3-month-old son, Boomer.
"Being apart from him for the last three weeks, four weeks from when I saw him last, he's grown so much," Phelps said. "I changed a diaper last night. He was just sitting there looking at me, smiling the whole time. It brought a tear to my eye, just because he hasn't seen me in a while and it was so cool to see him smiling back at me and laughing and giggling."
What Bolt has done might be even more impressive. The charismatic Jamaican sprinter three-peated in the 100 and 200 meters, and has a chance to take home a third gold medal in the 4x100 relay on Friday night. Nine gold medals in nine events have easily made Bolt the all-time greatest sprinter.
What has made Bolt so impressive is that he not only wins, but does it with so much ease. His relaxed, loose style suggests that if he took sprinting more seriously he would set more records that only he can break.
"I've proven to the world I'm the greatest," Bolt, 29, said Thursday after winning the 200 meters. "This is what I came here for. That's what I'm doing. This is why I said this is my last Olympics — I can't prove anything else.
"I am trying to be one of the greatest. Be among [Muhammad] Ali and Pelé. I hope to be in that bracket after these Games."
As Phelps (6´4) and Bolt (6´5) bow out, the 4-foot-9 Biles appears to just be getting started. Many may not have known of the 19-year-old unless they followed The World Artistic Gymnastics Championships the last three years, but they sure do now.
When she won the individual all-around medal, she did it by an almost unimaginable 2.1 points. It was a wider margin than the combined victories from 1980 to 2012. The Ohio native takes home four gold medals and a bronze, but she also won with the type of class and dignity that will continue to endear her to countless gymnastics fans.
"I think the pressure I put on myself was more than I took in from the media or anybody else. But I was just pressuring myself to hit sets," Biles said with a laugh after winning the all-around. "The atmosphere in the arena was amazing and for everyone to cheer and chant along, it gets you more pumped to do your routines, and more adrenaline. So it's very exciting."
She also took comparisons in stride. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”