Olympic history has been made ten times over at the 2016 Rio Games.
Michael Phelps has proven himself to be the greatest swimmer of all time — and perhaps the greatest athlete of all time. He’s broken so many records, including his own, in Rio that gold medal performances are expected.
We no longer have to wait with baited breath to see if Phelps will break the world record or come in first in his races, we assume he will.
Despite the familiarity with Phelps’ record-breaking performances, these Olympics have been anything but boring. Thursday night, in what may very well have been his last race against teammate and rival (or at least as close to a rival as the GOAT can have), Phelps beat Ryan Lochte soundly in the 200m individual medley. Once again Phelps penned his name in the history books, earning his 22nd career gold medal and fourth gold medal in Rio.
With last night’s win he also became the first swimmer to earn four consecutive gold medals in a single event. He also became one of only three American athletes to win an individual event four times, along with track and field Olympians Al Oerter and Carl Lewis.
As if that wasn’t enough, Phelps also beat an ancient Olympic record, surpassing Leonidas of Rhodes’ 12 individual Olympic titles with a 13th individual gold medal. Leonidas won his title over four Olympics (Rio is Phelps’ fifth), earning his last three titles in the 152 BCE Olympics– a 200m race, a 400m race, and a shield-carrying race.
At 31 years old, Phelps says Rio will be his last Olympic performance, fair enough considering he’s already the first American man to make five Olympic swim teams. Last night he told reporters he was proud to have finished out his Olympic career this way, saying, “The biggest thing for me through the meet so far is I’ve been able to finish how I wanted to.” But who knows, Phelps might be back; after all, Leonidas won his 12th individual Olympic title at age 36.
But Phelps’ performance wasn’t the only record-breaking swim of the night. American swimmer Simone Manuel broke the Olympic record in the women’s 100m freestyle race and became the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming.
She told reporters that the win was bigger than herself: "It's for a whole bunch of people that came before me and have been an inspiration to me,” she said. “It's for all the people after me, who believe they can't do it. And I just want to be inspiration to others that you can do it."
Manuel tied with Penny Oleksiak of Canada who won her fourth medal of the Games, the most medals won by a Canadian at a single Summer Olympics. At just 16 years old, Oleksiak also became the youngest Canadian gold medalist in Olympic history (Winter or Summer Olympics).
But that wasn’t the only Olympic history made Thursday night. The Fiji men’s rugby sevens team won Fiji’s first Olympic gold medal with a decisive 43-7 victory against Great Britain.
Additionally, Simone Biles and the American women’s gymnastics team continued to assert their dominance. Biles took gold in the individual all-around competition and teammate Aly Raisman took silver. Biles became the fourth straight American female to win gold in the individual-all around, winning by 2.1 points, a larger margin of victory than in the past nine Olympics combined.
But Biles’ win was expected; Aly Raisman went into the individual all-around fighting for silver. Raisman says she knew Biles would win gold, “Just because she wins every single competition.”
Last night Biles also became the first woman in twenty years– and the first American woman ever– to hold the World Championship and Olympic all-around titles simultaneously. (The last was Lilia Podkopayeva of Ukraine).
But Biles still has more Olympic history to make. If Biles earns one more olympic gold medal she will become the most decorated American Olympic gymnast of all time. Two more gold medals in Rio? She’ll tie for most gold medals won by a female gymnast in a single Olympic games. Three more and she’ll break that record.
Biles has three remaining Olympic events, vault, balance beam, and– her specialty– floor. And there’s no reason to think she won’t win gold in all of them. She is, quite simply, one of the greatest female gymnasts of all time, if not the greatest of all time. All that’s left is to prove it.
Biles will compete in the finals for the vault at 1:46 pm ET on Sunday, August 14th, followed by the beam final at 2:46 pm ET on Monday. Finally, she will go for her 5th gold medal on Tuesday, August 16th at 1:47 pm ET.
The legend of Simone Biles will only grow as the Rio Olympics goes on and gymnastics competition wraps up. Watch to see history in the making.
How to Live Stream the 2016 Rio Olympics:
NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will be live streaming coverage of the Games for pay TV subscribers via TV Everywhere. You can download the NBC Sports app to your Android TV, Apple TV, Xbox or Roku or use the iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps.
You can also live stream Olympic matches from NBC here.