Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh (Christiaan Kotze/SASPA)
Rio de Janeiro - It was a finish that could not have been scripted as we witnessed the end of an extraordinary era in butterfly at the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Rio on Friday night (Saturday morning, SA time).
Chad le Clos, Michael Phelps and Laszlo Cseh all tied for second in the 100m final as the greatest Olympian of all time bowed out of the sport.
Phelps still has to swim the 4x100m medley relay on Saturday night (Sunday morning, SA time), but he is done competing individually.
Having shared an intense rivalry with Cseh over the years, and with Le Clos more recently, Phelps sharing the podium with two of his fiercest competitors was a fitting end to a majestic career.
It made for a touching moment as all three swimmers held hands when they climbed on top of the podium.
"That was Chad's idea. It was the right thing to do ... it was a special moment,"Cseh said afterwards.
Le Clos agreed that the podium made for an emotional ceremony as he saw his battle with Phelps come to an end.
"It kind of just happened. It was a moment that will never happen again ... it almost felt like a relay," he said of his suggestion to hold hands.
"It's crazy to think back over the last year or so what's happened and where I'm at now.
"It's been a good week and I'm a bit disappointed from my side, but we'll go away and look at it and come back stronger."
Le Clos leaves Rio 2016 with two silver medals after he finished second in the 200m freestyle.
Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...