Michael Phelps is very similar to Christopher Nolan's Batman. While Nolan's Bruce Wayne took a break from wearing the cape and cowl, Phelps dramatically decreased his training regiment and event program in comparison to his cult-like preparation for the Beijing Olympics.
If the 2000 Olympic was Phelps' League of Shadows era as a wide-eyed 14-year-old Olympian, the 2004 Olympic Games in which he won six golds and a pair of bronzes was the second half of Batman Begins.
Ultimately, the Beijing Olympics was Phelps' Dark Knight moment. Those 17 days in the pool were a flawless masterpiece for Phelps that could only be equalled, never surpassed and that launched Phelps into legend status.
Finally, Dark Knight Rises, which opened in theatres a week before the Opening Ceremonies is Nolan's conclusion.
Phelps has also chosen to leave the Olympic stage on top after the London Games.
"I knew that I wanted to swim for another four years after 2008. I don't have that feeling now," he said. "Sure, I am excited I'm at the Olympics and representing my country. I don't see myself going on. I just don't want to.
However, after going medal-less in the 400-meter IM and finishing second second to France in the 400-meter relay, there have been suggestions that Phelps may not leave out on top after all. Instead, teammate Ryan Lochte has taken the world by storm as the new "it" swimmer while Phelps has faltered.
While Phelps won't match the expectations of his record-setting Beijing Games performance, (just as Dark Knight remains the magnum opus of the Batman trilogy) his medal count from these Games will still be higher than the average Olympian's career haul.
Four years ago, Phelps said almost immediately after winning gold in the 400 individual medley that he'd never again compete in the grueling race. From the look of it, Phelps heart didn't appear to be in the first final of his Olympic schedule and he may have subconsciously been saving himself for future events.
On Sunday night, Lochte not Phelps lost the United State's .55 second lead on the final leg of the 400 IM. Phelps swam a gold-medal worthy race but Frenchman Yannick Agnel swam the race of his life to pass the American in the final 25 meters. Conversely, Phelps swam a 47.15 second leg that stretched the United States' lead from .14 seconds to .76 seconds.
Phelps doesn't appear to be out of shape as some have theorized but he does appear to have been downgraded from inhuman to human in the pool.
Phelps has five events remaining. He is the favorite in the 100 and 200-meter butterfly. On Thursday, Phelps will race Lochte for the final time in the 200-meter individual medley. He will also be competing in the, 4X200 relay, and the 4x100 medley relays.
On Aug. 4, Phelps will leave the pool for the final time as a competitive swimmer. His accomplishments will pale in comparisons to his perfect 2008 games but with a few more golds on his mantle, he'll still be remembered as the most accomplished Olympian in history.