Michael Phelps is without Bob Bowman at his side at a meet for the first time in many years, but the longtime coach is still watching and critiquing from afar.
Phelps said he texted Bowman “with some frustration” after winning the 100m butterfly in an unsatisfactory time at a Pro Swim Series meet in Orlando on Thursday night.
Bowman is across the country in Federal Way, Wash., coaching the Arizona State men’s team at the Pac-12 Championships. Phelps guessed it’s the first time he’s been at a meet without Bowman since 2007.
On Thursday, Phelps clocked 52.28 seconds in the 100m fly, .07 ahead of countryman Tom Shields. Phelps has been No. 1 and Shields has been No. 2 among Americans in the event in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Phelps, the three-time reigning Olympic 100m butterfly champion, hoped to break 52 seconds. He clocked 51.94 at his last meet in Austin, Texas, in January.
Bowman replied to Phelps’ unhappy text as soon as he climbed out of the pool.
“His response was, the swimming is fine,” Phelps told media in Orlando. “It’s just the small things you need to pay attention to a little bit more. He’s 100 percent right. Some of the butterfly sets that I’ve done [in training] over the last four to five weeks have been really good.”
Phelps said Bowman also communicated with him after the morning preliminaries, saying his 22-time Olympic medalist pupil wasn’t carrying his head correctly in the water.
“I was kind of out of it this morning,” said Phelps, who moved from Baltimore to Arizona to join Bowman in Tempe last year. “I’ve never come west to east for a meet before. So it’s kind of weird. … I hate going 52 [seconds in the 100m butterfly]. I spent a whole year doing it last year [until clocking a world-leading 50.45 at the U.S. Championships on Aug. 8]. It’s just frustrating. … If I would have been under 52, I would have been pumped.
“This race will stick with me until I have another chance to swim it again.”
In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky captured the 200m freestyle in 1:55.73, distancing 2013 World champion Missy Franklin (1:57.67) and 2012 Olympic champion Allison Schmitt (1:58.18).
The top two at the U.S. Olympic trials on June 29 will make the Olympic team in the event.
“I’ve had some of the best weeks of training I’ve ever had these last couple of weeks,” said Ledecky, who in Austin in January clocked the fastest 200m free time in the world this year, a 1:54.43.
Later, Ledecky finished fourth in the 400m individual medley, 4.13 seconds behind World silver medalist Maya DiRado. Ledecky is not expected to try to qualify for the Olympic team in the 400m IM.
“I always want to get my hand on the wall first, but I know in a race like that, it’s not one of my better races,” Ledecky said. “It’s a tougher task, but I was happy with how my 400m IM went. It’s just good to get out of my comfort zone.”