Michael Phelps wins 17th career gold medal

Michael Phelps wins 17th career gold medal
Michael Phelps wins 17th career gold medal

In the final individual race of his career, Michael Phelps was golden.

Yes, it was another first-place finish in his signature stroke, the butterfly, as Phelps held back the field and took gold, touching the wall in 51.21, which was slower than his semifinal heat, but that doesn't matter. He took the gold, beating out the other seven swimmers in the pool.

Phelps beat out the great Chad le Clos of South Africa, who held the lead until the final 30 meters. He touched the wall in 51.44. Russian swimmer Evgeny Korotyshkin also took silver by way of touching in an identical time.

Now, the interesting facet to this race was the fact Phelps was going up against Milorad Cavic, the man Phelps beat out by .01 seconds at the '08 Games. This time? Cavic finished fourth and was .60 seconds behind.

Especially impressive: Phelps was fourth in the race at the halfway point, the 50-meter turn, but stormed home. Impressive, classic Phelps. And on Thursday, in his gold medal-winning performance in the 200-meter individual medley, Phelps became the first swimmer ever to win three straight golds in an event.

The gold here, in the 100 fly, makes it a three-peat as well. In back-to-back nights, Phelps achieved what had never been done before.

Quite simply, it was the perfect ending to an individual career that's unparalleled in the pool or in or on any other Olympic surface. What started slow for Phelps -- the fourth-place finish in the 400 IM; a disappointing result, to be certain, if not an outright surprising one -- only became better and better. He's taken two individual golds now and can win one more, bringing his total to 18 golds and 22 overall medals in Saturday's 4x100 medley.

Phelps was thrilled, but even critical of his race afterward.

"I didn't have a good finish and didn't have a good turn, but I'm not going to nitpick at my races right now," he told the BBC. "I'm happy to be able to defend that title. All of my 100 flys have been within two tenths of a second, so it's my final individual win ever, and to be able to win it is very special."

Originally Matt Norlander on CBSSports.com