Five weeks ago, Davis Tarwater retired from swimming. Again.
Having missed out on the Olympics for the third time, Tarwater was set to give his goodbye wave to the water.
"In 2012, walking out of that pool not making the team it was more about holding my head high," said Tarwater.
Then a twist of fate. Michael Phelps, dropped out of the 200m free race, opening up a spot on the relay for Davis.
"I think there's a whole romanticism with how it played out," he said.
Tarwater raced in the prelims of Tuesdays 4 by 200 free relay.
"That was probably the most nervous I'd ever been . The way the pools set up, especially when you're taking in a relay exchange, the way the pool is set up, and I see the whole stadium, it's just pulsing with intensity."
Later that night, he sat out the finals, as swimming superstars Phelps and Ryan Lochte filled in. The boys took home gold that night, earning Davis a medal as well.
"This is the moment I tried to build an entire career around, and when it finally happened, it felt like I'd done it so many times before, and it just made it that more special."
But to understand just how special, you have to rewind. In 2008, at the Olympic Trials, Tarwater failed to qualify for the Beijing games by three 100ths of a second.
Devastated and lost, he decided to quit swimming.
"I've definitely had a love hate relationship with swimming. Sports in general really consumed my life for a long time. I think having to step away from the sport and focus on my academics and focus on building my personhood, it fortified by strengths that allowed me to be successful when I returned."
He says that break is the reason he's now and will forever be called an Olympic gold medalist.
"No, when I walked away I didn't ever want to come back. When I walked back into the sport two years ago, it's grown and grown and grown. Now I've never been more competitive in my life."
"A month ago, I was sitting on my couch eating Wendy's and now I'm an Olympic gold medalist."
Tarwater did not receive his gold medal on the Olympic stage. He and the other member of the relay team that didn't race in the finals got theirs in front of their teammates at a meeting. It's a tradition for USA Swimming.