Phelps, 31, and Lochte, 32, faced off in the 200-meter individual medley. At the halfway point, Lochte was in first and Phelps was second.
In the end, Phelps had reclaimed the lead, and Lochte had somehow fallen out of contention, finishing fifth. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino won the silver while China’s Wang Shun took the bronze.
Phelps teared up once again during the medal ceremony after winning his fourth gold medal in Rio, and officially surpassing an ancient Greek to be the most decorated gold medalist of all time in individual events. It’s also the first time an Olympic swimmer has won four consecutive gold medals in the same event.
As the race concluded, Phelps wiggled four fingers in victory.
“I had a hard time holding it together,” he said later of his tears on the podium. “It’s very special, getting able to win 22 gold medals. It’s something you dream of – I’m living a dream come true.”
“It’s special. This is exactly how I wanted to leave the sport,” he also said, after he was back in the pool in the men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinal, in which he finished second and advances to Friday’s final.
On Friday morning, Phelps shared a photo of himself kissing his latest medal. “Another fun night last night!!” he captioned the photo. “Trying to think of what else to say and I’m speechless…. This has truly been a dream come true!!!”
Phelps also had support back home as the Baltimore Ravens briefly halted its pre-season game to watch the race live as fans held “Ravens flock for Phelps” signs.
Meanwhile, after the race a disappointed Lochte told NBC that he was “kind of bummed” with the results.
“I felt great before the race, but I guess I just didn’t have it tonight,” he said. “I’m kind of bummed, but gave it my all so that’s all I can ask for.”
He also said he’ll be taking some time off after Rio.
“I need a break, mentally and physically,” he said.
Final Medal Count
So with this race in the books, what’s the updated medal count?
Phelps and Lochte now have a staggering 38 Olympic medals between them. For those keeping track at home, Phelps has 22 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze. Lochte has 6 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze. Despite Thursday’s loss, Lochte is still the second-most decorated swimmer in Olympic history.
The race was likely the last time the swimmers will face off professionally. Phelps had previously said that the 2012 London Olympics would be his last, but he came out of retirement in 2014 and went on to easily secure a spot on Team USA once again.
Despite their longtime rivalry – Lochte often places second to his teammate, only placing over Phelps in the Olympics once in the 400-meter individual medley at the 2012 London Games – the swimmers insist there’s nothing but love and friendly competition between them.