On Thursday night, the world witnessed lightening striking a staggering 8th time in the last 3 Olympics. Usain Bolt won his third consecutive 200m title to reinstate his legendary status. Throughout these games, the attention has been captured by Bolt, due to it being his last appearance at this iconic stage. Another athlete who has been an Olympic gold medallist for an astonishing 12 years called it quits, according to himself at least. Michael Phelps exited with 5 gold medals and a silver medal to solidify his position as the most decorated athlete at the Olympic games.

As these two sportsmen have undoubtedly been the greatest Olympians of their generation, is there a way to make the sweeping statement everyone would like to say?

They are bigger than just athletes

Whenever Usain entered the track, or Michael stepped onto the pool deck, you cannot escape the sense of aura they bring. Crowds light up and roar at the sight of these champions, and they rarely disappoint. Nobody has ever seen athletes like this, so far ahead of the field they are up against. They usually battle against their previous best whenever they compete and the other participants are made to look like spectators. With Usain, the superstar status is something he embraces with the swagger and demeanour he portrays in everything he does.

It is well documented that Phelps has had the goal of changing the sport of swimming and becoming the greatest that the sport has ever seen. The commonality between both is their supreme confidence once they enter their stage to get the job done, which for them is the Olympic Gold Medal.

Both have had battles outside the sport

Over the past two to three years, athletics has been overshadowed by claims of widespread doping. Athletes across a range of sports on track and field have been caught red handed for their actions involving banned substances. Through this period, people have looked to Usain Bolt to lift the spirits within the sport.

This pressure must be overwhelming, yet he delivers on the biggest stage and continues to save his sport through its darkest times. This achievement is almost greater than all the medals he has obtained in his illustrious career. Michael Phelps has faced demons from within himself, rather than some external pressures. With these battles being in the public eye amongst millions of followers. the fact he still won on the world stage is astounding. Despite all the adversities faced, Michael and Usain have come out champions and winners.

They retire at the top of their game

Bolt still has the relay to come later this evening, but it is likely he will end his Olympic career with gold. This golden finish is truly what he deserves for his achievements and will underline the brilliance of him.

We have witnessed someone who is likely to be as talked about as a Muhammed Ali or a Pelé, in terms of greatest sportsmen ever. With that in mind, for him to retain his titles is the perfect way to exit. In London 4 years ago, Phelps won 4 gold medals but lost his signature race in the 200m butterfly. With that regained in Rio, there is the sense that his comeback has been justified. In his own admission, Phelps did not like his own performance in London and champions always think they can do better. It has been a great thrill to watch these two finish the way they would like to.

Even though Usain Bolt will likely be remembered more than Usain Bolt by our generation of supporters, we should be thankful that we were alive to watch these two at the peak of their powers.