History maker Phelps set for final Olympic flourish

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Record-breaker Michael Phelps takes the plunge for the final race of his astonishing Olympic career on Saturday after proving once again in Rio that nobody does it better.

A glorious career had threatened to end in public humiliation when Phelps was arrested for drunk driving two years ago, but the American has banished his demons in dramatic fashion to leave a Games legacy it is hard to imagine ever being eclipsed.

Already the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, Phelps captured four more gold medals over the first six days to take his tally to a staggering 22 in his fifth and final Games.

And the 31-year-old is tipped to win a further two in Friday's 100m butterfly and the men's 4x100 medley relay -- an event the United States have never lost at the Olympics -- on Saturday.

Records have tumbled again: a crushing victory in Thursday's 200m individual medley was a fourth successive gold for Phelps in the event, an astonishing achievement he tries to emulate in the 100m fly.

"My body is in pain, my legs are hurting," said Phelps after a crushing 200m fly win.

"I think the biggest thing for me through the meet so far is I've been able to kind of finish how I wanted to," added the American, who flirted with retirement after the London Games four years ago.

"I've been able to come back and I've been able to accomplish things that I've just dreamt of."

Phelps notably became only the third Olympic athlete to win four straight titles in the same individual event after fellow Americans Al Oerter in the discus (1956-68) and Carl Lewis in the long jump (1984-96), once again transcending his sport.

- Sweet revenge -

He also became the oldest individual swimming champion in Olympic history by regaining his cherished 200m fly, exacting sweet revenge over fierce rival Chad le Clos after losing by a fingertip to the South African in London four years ago.

When Phelps climbed, like a Wimbledon tennis champion, past a bank of poolside photographers to kiss fiancee Nicole and baby Boomer, the Brazilian crowd erupted.

There was a party atmosphere when he returned an hour later to anchored a fourth straight American victory in the 4x200m freestyle, cruising home almost two and a half seconds ahead of Britain's James Guy as fans rose to acclaim an Olympic legend.

The manner in which Phelps vaporised le Clos, Hagino and long-time rival Ryan Lochte in the 200m fly and 200m medley will have many wondering whether he isn't bowing out too soon.

But few would begrudge Phelps retiring at the top of his game given everything he has done for swimming.

He demonstrated his durability after pulverising a quality 200m medley field by returning to the pool a little over 30 minutes later to qualify fifth fastest for the 100m fly.

But only a fool would back against Phelps achieving another four-in-a-row gold.

"This has been a very special week so far," said Phelps. "It's wild to think that over 20 years ago I learnt to swim and it's all stopping in the next 48 hours."