Michael Phelps wasn’t even supposed to be here today. After winning his 18th gold medal in London four years ago, he declared his career over. He came back after the U.S. lost to France in the 4x100 freestyle relay three years ago, and his second leg in that event tonight gave his team a lead over the French they never gave up.

It earned Phelps his record 19th gold medal in an event that was one of swimming’s biggest toss-ups. In executing the turn, Phelps surfaced an astonishing 2.5 seconds after the Frenchman who touched the wall in the lead:

Watching Phelps swim in tonight’s relay was like getting an unexpected moment of perfection from someone you’d already spent years forgetting about. It was Kobe’s 60-point game, but in the NBA Finals.