Michael Phelps finishes strong at the 2012 Olympics

Only in the sports world can an athlete go from disappointing to the greatest of all time in a matter of a week.

Here’s looking at you, Michael Phelps.

In his fourth and final Olympics, Michael Phelps started off slow, but ultimately added four gold medals and two silvers to complete what has been a remarkable career. During his Olympic career, Phelps won a total of 22 medals, with 18 of them being gold.

“Having everybody cheer when I get out of the water is a great feeling,” Phelps told NBC’s Andrea Kramer after his last individual event.

“We’ve been able to take this sport to a whole new level and that’s something pretty cool for me to be a part of.”

At the beginning, Phelps’ 2012 campaign appeared to be a bit of a letdown. Phelps shocked everyone by placing fourth in the 400m individual medley and was handily beaten by rival Ryan Lochte. This fueled the speculation that perhaps Phelps wasn’t taking these Games as seriously.

People were wrong.

Phelps captured gold July 31 with the help of his U.S. teammates in the 4x200m freestyle. The win put Phelps in another class of his own by becoming the Olympian with the most medals at 19. However, Phelps was far from done.

In the 200m individual medley, Phelps got revenge over Lochte with a first-place time of 1:54.27 compared to Lochte’s 1:54.90. The 27-year-old swimmer also set another record to become the first male swimmer to earn gold in the same individual event for three straight Olympics. Still, the focus of the race was on Phelps and Lochte.

“Ryan has probably been one of the toughest competitors I’ve swam against, all-around competitors,” Phelps told The Associated Press.

With Lochte out of his way, Phelps continued his streak of gold in two other races. His last individual event, the 100m butterfly, was especially dramatic as Phelps came all the way back from seventh place to finish first.

“I’m just happy the last one was a win,” he said. “That’s all I really wanted.”

Phelps capped off his Olympic career with his teammates by earning another gold medal, this time in the 4x100m medley.

“I was able to really put the final cherry on top tonight, put all the whipped cream I wanted and sprinkles. I was able to top off the sundae,” Phelps told ESPN. “It’s been a great career. It’s been a great journey. I can’t be more happy than I am.”

All along, Phelps has stated that London would be his last Olympics. In his time, Phelps set numerous world records including most gold medals (19), most overall medals (22) and broke many record times in individual categories.

If this is really Michael Phelps’ swan song, Phelps can say that he went out on a high note.