RIO DE JANEIRO — Michael Phelps closed out the Rio Olympics in the only way imaginable.
Phelps put the United States ahead to stay on the butterfly leg of the 4x100 medley relay and Nathan Adrian finished it off, giving the most decorated athlete in Olympic history his 23rd career gold medal.
If that was the end, and Phelps insists it is, what a way to go out.
He would finish his career with 28 medals overall, having won five golds and a silver at these games.
Two-time gold medalist Ryan Murphy put the Americans out front with a world-record split on the backstroke — it counts since he was leading off — but Britain surged ahead on the breaststroke with its own world-record holder, Adam Peaty.
Phelps dove into the pool in second place.
He wouldn’t be for long.
On the return lap, Phelps powered through the water with his whirling butterfly stroke, surging ahead of James Guy to pass off a lead to the anchor Adrian.
It wasn’t in doubt after that. Adrian pulled away on the freestyle to win in an Olympic-record time of 3 minutes, 27.95 seconds. Britain held on for silver, with Australia nabbing bronze.
The victory came just minutes after the women’s medley relay gave the United States its 1,000th Olympic gold medal at the Summer Games.
Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer and Simone Manuel led the American triumph. The winning time was 3:53.13.
Australia earned silver, while Denmark took bronze.
For Manuel, it was her second medal of the night — she also won silver in the 50 free — and second gold of the games. She became the first African-American woman to win an Olympic swimming title with her win in the 100 free.
Connor Jaeger gave the U.S. another silver in the 1,500 free, leaving the American with 33 swimming medals in Rio — matching the highest total since the boycotted Los Angeles Games in 1984.
The U.S. also won 33 medals at Sydney in 2000.
The final two individual medals of the games went to Pernille Blume of Denmark in the 50 freestyle, her country’s first swimming gold since 1948, and Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri in the grueling 1,500 free.
After posting the top time in both the preliminaries and the semifinals, Blume came through again on the final night of swimming at the Rio Games. She finished in 24.07.
After her landmark victory in the 100 free, Manuel settled for silver this time in 24.09. Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus earned the bronze in 24.11.
It was another huge disappointment for sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell of Australia. They were shut out of an individual medal again, with Cate finishing fifth and Bronte seventh.
Blume was the third Danish swimmer to capture a gold. Greta Andersen won the 100 free and Karen Margrethe Harup took the 100 backstroke at the 1948 London Olympics.
Paltrinieri pulled away from the field and was under world-record pace much of the race before fading a bit at the end. Still, he won comfortably in 14:34.57.
Jaeger claimed silver in 14:39.48, while bronze went to another Italian, Gabriele Detti, in 14:40.86.
Detti rallied over the final laps to pass American Jordan Wilimovksy, who settled for fourth.
Wilimovksy will get another shot at a medal in an even more demanding event — the 10-kilometer open water race at Fort Copacabana on Tuesday.
Track & field
A changing of the guard in women’s sprints doesn’t mean a redrawing of the map.
That 100-meter Olympic gold medal is heading back to Jamaica, only this time in the hands of Elaine Thompson, the 24-year-old who took down America’s best, to say nothing of her training partner, two-time defending champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Thompson turned what was supposed to be one of the most competitive races on the Olympic program into a runaway. Running even at the halfway mark with Fraser-Pryce and Tori Bowie of the United States, Thompson pulled away over the last half and defeated Bowie with a bookshelf-sized slice of daylight in between.
Thompson finished in 10.71 seconds, a full .12 seconds better than Bowie and only .01 off the time she ran to beat Fraser-Pryce at Jamaica’s national championships last month. Thompson’s 10.70 in Kingston was the best of five sub-10.8 women’s sprints this year and served notice that things could be changing once the sprinters reached Rio.
“Jamaica has so many talented sprinters,” Thompson said. “To be the second champion, I’m really happy.”
Three of those sub-10.8 women were in the final — Bowie and another American, English Gardner, were the others — as was Fraser-Pryce, the 29-year-old who was a brace-faced newcomer when she won her first of two golds at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing eight years ago.
The evening’s best drama came earlier in the men’s 10,000 meters, where Britain’s Mo Farah defended his title, rallying after he tripped and fell with 15 laps to go.
Day 2 closed with Jessica Ennis-Hill coming up 35 points short of defending her title in the heptathlon.
In between, long jumper Jeff Henderson brought all-time gold medal No. 999 to the United States, jumping 8.38 meters to overtake Luvo Manyonga of South Africa on his last jump.
Fraser-Pryce was trying to become the first person to win three straight 100-meter titles at the Olympics. It would’ve given her one day’s worth of bragging rights over Usain Bolt, who has overshadowed her in almost everything despite their dual dominance. Bolt will try to do it on his own in the men’s race Sunday.
Fraser-Pryce led the women’s final early, but faded, and settles for a bronze medal — won by only .007 over surprise finalist Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast — to go with the green-and-yellow, Jamaican-flag hairdo she worked up for her turn as her country’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony. She had been struggling with a toe injury that she said made even getting to the line an accomplishment.
“By far, I would say this is my best championship ever,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I knew how hard I worked, I knew the pain, I knew the sacrifice, I knew the tears, I knew everything.”
And now, there’s a new champion from the island country that seems to grow them on trees.
Thompson was a late bloomer. Until she finished second in the 200 last year at world championships, she barely made a splash on the international scene, tucked behind Fraser-Pryce and the country’s seven-time Olympic medalist, Veronica Campbell-Brown, among others.
Thompson’s win over Fraser-Pryce at nationals caused a stir, but then both runners took to the sideline — Fraser-Pryce with the toe injury and Thompson with a strained hamstring.
She looked no worse for wear over three heats in Rio de Janeiro. In the final, she got stronger as she approached the line and left what had been billed as an uber-competitive field far behind.
Dafne Schippers, the Dutch heptathlete-turned-sprinter, finished fifth, and Gardner, the champion at U.S. Olympic Trials last month, was two more spots back.
“They are not unbeatable,” Gardner insisted, when asked about the Jamaicans’ unending dominance in these races.
When the lights are brightest, though, they really are.
Other highlights from Day 8:
Golf gold: For all the talk about top players skipping Rio, the sport couldn’t have asked for a better final round. Justin Rose of Britain is the third-round leader and will be trying to win golf’s first gold medal in 112 years. Rose made two eagles in the opening five holes and shot a 6-under 65 to build a one-shot lead over British Open champion Henrik Stenson.
First for Puerto Rico: Monica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first gold medal in any sport in Olympic history, upsetting Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the women’s tennis singles final at the Rio Games. Even before Saturday’s 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 victory, Puig already was assured of being the first woman representing Puerto Rico to earn a medal of any color at any Olympics.
U.S. rebounds: Seemingly down and out only a few days ago, the U.S. men’s volleyball team is suddenly right back in the mix. Fresh off Thursday night’s stunning four-set victory against host Brazil, the Americans rallied from way down in the first set to beat France 25-22, 25-22, 24-25, 25-22 and improve their position in Pool A.
Great Britain rallies: Great Britain scored two goals in the fourth period to defeat the United States 2-1 and win Pool B in women’s field hockey. Britain evened the score when Sophie Bray redirected a shot into the goal midway through the final, then Alex Danson barely got the stick on a long shot three minutes later for the clincher. The matchup of unbeaten teams was critical because the winner would top the pool and avoid the No. 1-ranked Netherlands, the Group A winner, until the final.
Guaranteed medal: Venus Williams will leave the Rio Olympics with a medal after all. Williams is guaranteed to tie the Olympic tennis record with her fifth medal after she and teammate Rajeev Ram rallied to win their mixed doubles semifinal (2-6, 6-2, 10-3 tiebreak) against India’s Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.
Goodbye green: After blaming algae, heat and even the number of swimmers for the green water at Maria Lenk Aquatics Center, officials now say a contractor mistakenly dumped hydrogen peroxide into the pool, causing an adverse reaction with chlorine. So, they’re draining the larger pool to transfer nearly 1 million gallons from a nearby practice pool.
Photo finish: After rowing for more than a mile, the gold medal came down to an inch. New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale and Croatia’s Damir Martin crossed the finish line in the men’s single sculls side by side, not knowing which one of them was the new Olympic champion. A photo analysis showed Drysdale won by a thumb’s length.
British elation: Another British medal haul is going on at the velodrome. Britain won seven of 10 gold medals possible in London in 2012. The women’s team pursuit squad of Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell-Shand beat the world champion United States in the finals, giving their powerful track cycling team its third gold medal in Rio.