Michael Phelps, Bob Bowman
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Bob Bowman’s ‘The Golden Rules’ excerpt on Michael Phelps’ comeback

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On a summer 2013 night, Bob Bowman sat on the Delaware shoreline and received a text.

“Let’s have dinner soon. MP”

Bowman and Michael Phelps met a few days later at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a reservation Phelps made for two at Wit & Wisdom.

At the seafood restaurant, Phelps first told Bowman about his serious comeback thoughts after retiring following the London Olympics.

In “The Golden Rules,” Bowman details 10 steps to world-class excellence in life and work, illustrating them with lessons learned from coaching not only Phelps, but also several more world-class swimmers and his own personal experiences.

VIDEO: Bowman discusses ‘The Golden Rules’ on TODAY

Here is an excerpt on Bowman and Phelps’ meeting in 2013 from “The Golden Rules,” which was released today.

Michael leaned forward and his eyes narrowed. He looked at me and said, “I’m thinking about coming back.” I stared at him. He smiled a bit. “Yep,” he went on, “I’m thinking about the Olympics one more time.”

I wasn’t sure if I should jump for joy or start crying.

“You want to come back?” I asked, a bit shocked and confused. He sort of grinned and nodded.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised. A few months earlier, while he was on vacation with some buddies in Cabo San Lucas, Michael had called me late one night and started blathering on about making some sort of return. At the time, I didn’t think much of the call; I simply took it as a late-at-night-Michael ramble and told him, “Absolutely not,” and hung up.

But on this night, as he sat across the table from me, I could tell he was serious. And I wondered, Why? Why would he want to go through all the effort of another Olympic cycle? Michael had legendary status: eighteen Olympic golds among his twenty-two total. He’d broken dozens of world records and made millions of dollars along the way. The press had scrutinized nearly every angle of his short life; a comeback would put the media back on his trail. Plus, had he forgotten the run-up to the London Olympics and how miserable both he and I were?

“Do you remember those last four years?” I finally asked him.

“It won’t be like that,” he said.

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “I’ve heard that before.” Then I shook my head.

There was silence for a minute or so. I thought about what his decision would mean, for him and for me. Then I said, “If you’re making a comeback for your sponsors, or if you’re doing it because you don’t have anything better to do with your life, or if you can’t figure your life out, then you should not do it. Michael, I mean it: You should not do it.”

He nodded. And waited. Then he said, “Bob, I can tell you, those aren’t the reasons.”

I came at him again. “Let me be clear, Michael. Unless you’re doing it for the right reasons, and those reasons have to be that you’re doing it only for yourself, then you should not do this.”

Now, for the first time all night—in fact, for the first time that I could remember—Michael looked at me with the face of a wizened young man. And he said, “That’s the only reason I want to do it. For me. I love to swim. I want to swim.”

He paused for a second. “And I have more things I want to accomplish.”

That’s when I knew for certain that he meant what he was saying …

MORE: Phelps’ concussion, more highlights from ‘The Golden Rules’

Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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