Bob Bowman

Michael Phelps rewatched his Beijing Olympic races. He remembers everything.

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Earlier this month, the Phelps family gathered around the TV. Michael stood behind the sofa. Wife Nicole was there. Their boys — Boomer, 3, and Beckett, 2, and perhaps 7-month-old Maverick, if he wasn’t sleeping. So was Michael’s father-in-law, who lives with the family. Even longtime coach Bob Bowman, or grandpa, as the boys call him.

“It was surreal,” Bowman said. “He even called Debbie on Skype or whatever.”

Debbie, Phelps’ mom, was conferenced in on a laptop, sitting atop the coffee table.

The occasion: to watch Phelps’ races from the Olympics that reaired as part of NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week. In particular, it was the first time he and Bowman watched his eight Beijing Olympic gold-medal finals in full together. (They previously watched some of the highlights hours after the eighth gold medal in a sitdown with Bob Costas for NBC primetime.)

“The two of us, our minds together, talking about breakouts and technique and all of it,” Phelps said in a phone interview Tuesday while promoting his new association with Silk Soymilk.

Bowman was Phelps’ career-long coach, through the 28 Olympic medals (23 golds), the well-documented lows and his newer roles as husband and father. On that night earlier this month, nothing on the screen could have surprised him.

Bowman watched. He paused every two minutes to raise a pillow, take Boomer’s toll money and let the boy push his truck through the living space. And he was reminded of Phelps’ encyclopedic memory.

“It wasn’t just Beijing. It was London. It was all of them,” Bowman said. “Like in the 200m IM in Beijing. I felt like his turn from back to breast, he really slowed down going into that wall, even though he was in the lead. He was like, yeah, I did that so I could touch on my right hand so I could look over and see where [eventual silver medalist] Laszlo [Cseh] was going into that wall.”

Q&A: Phelps on Peloton, Michael Jordan, story behind Maverick

Watching another race, Phelps forecast that he would come off a turn and, about halfway down, peer around to make sure the other swimmers were where he wanted them to be.

“Then you see him look over,” Bowman said.

Phelps wasn’t particularly excited to watch the races he lost in London — fourth in the 400m individual medley and silver to Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly.

“I’m happy they didn’t show all of the races from London,” he joked of the Games for which he didn’t train properly, skipping out on practices and butting heads with Bowman (more than usual). “Or maybe I missed the 200m fly because I was putting the kids down. It’s still painful for me to watch that because I know I’ve seen it enough that if I would have hit any of the turns right, then I win the race. And that’s still frustrating to me to watch.

“It brought back a lot of raw emotions that probably hadn’t been addressed or really thought about in-depth. That made it a little bit more challenging being in quarantine.”

Oh, the 200m butterfly in 2012.

“It’s hard to believe he doesn’t win, right?” Bowman said. “He just misjudges the last wall, which messes up his kicks, which messes up his stroke count, which messes up the finish. Basically, that’s it. It’s not like he gets demolished, right? He didn’t get beat by a body length. It was he just mistimed the touch. It was the opposite of the 100m fly from Beijing.”

The one race from Beijing that Bowman watches frequently is the 200m butterfly. He uses it in talks. That’s where Phelps won despite his goggles filling with water, but he only broke his world record by .06.

“My favorite thing is he’ll touch, and it’s a gold medal, it’s a world record, and he looks like the most unhappy guy,” Bowman said. “It looks like he got eighth. He throws his goggles off. I remember, after that race, he actually came over to the side of the pool. I was standing there on his way to the mixed zone, and he just looks over and just kind of goes off in this tirade. My goggles filled up. I couldn’t see. I just remember saying, gold medal, world record, let’s just smile and move on to the next one.”

Boomer and Beckett have grown immune to their dad being on TV, Bowman said. They did get together on the coffee table at one point to do the trademark Phelps back slaps. All the while, dad was taking a trip down memory lane.

“It was kind of cool because I could almost just really put myself back into that exact moment,” Phelps said. “I can go back through history and really put myself in that pool, in that race again, pretty much know exactly what I was thinking every stroke.”

MORE: Why Michael Phelps unretired in 2013

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Michael Phelps still timed when he swims, coach jokes about comeback

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Michael Phelps has repeated in the last year that he feels strong enough that he could make a comeback, but he doesn’t have the motivation.

Maybe the 10th anniversary of Phelps’ eight gold medals at the Beijing Games this month provides the itch. Who knows. But so far, Phelps hasn’t been persuaded, even by jocular texts from longtime coach Bob Bowman.

“He’ll text ‘100 free?’” Phelps said, laughing, in a recent interview, according to the Baltimore Sun. “And I’m like, ‘Bob, shut up. Leave me alone.’”

Bowman, who recently apologized for inappropriate texts to retired swimmer Caroline Burckle in 2011, said he was not serious about urging Phelps to unretire, according to the report.

“Did he say I want him to swim? I don’t think I really do,” Bowman said. “There’s a delicious irony in the fact that because he’s been on Peloton and takes care of himself really well, he’s in way better shape than he was when he came back in 2013. And I see him swim, you see the stroke and it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s not really too bad.’ But no, I definitely do not want him to have to go through all that.”

The whole story is reminiscent of nine years ago, when Phelps’ mom, Debbie, needled her son about going for Rio 2016 after the Brazilian city was awarded the Games. Phelps had already publicly said he would retire in three years, after the London Olympics.

“When they announced Rio, I texted him, I’m like, Michael, 2016, Rio, 50 free, 100 free, just a relay,” Debbie Phelps said in 2012. “No, mother. I will send you there.”

When Phelps did unretire in 2013, it started with a text.

“Let’s have dinner soon. MP,” Phelps texted Bowman at the time, according to Bowman’s book, “The Golden Rules.”

Bowman and Phelps met. More from Bowman’s book:

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. … 

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.”

Recent social media posts have shown Phelps in the pool with retired seven-time Australian Olympic medalist swimmer Grant Hackett. The Baltimore Sun reported the two compete against each other and that Phelps also asks Bowman to time him when he goes to Arizona State University to “splash around.”

“There are very few times when I don’t try to get up and go something semi-quick,” Phelps said, according to the report. “It’s just natural. It’s the only thing I know, I guess.”

Bowman now coaches at ASU, and Phelps lives nearby with his wife and two young boys.

For those still hoping, Phelps did say in July 2017 there was a one or two percent chance he would come back, according to Entertainment Weekly.

“Very minimal,” Phelps said after a laugh then, according to the magazine. “I wanted to retire on my own terms and never have a what-if, and I’m to that point where I’m very content with everything that’s going on.”

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Swim coach Bob Bowman apologizes for inappropriate texting

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IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of retired 23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, has acknowledged and apologized for inappropriate text messages that were sent from his cellphone to former Olympic swimmer Caroline Burckle in 2011.

At the time, Bowman was a coach for the U.S. national team, along with Sean Hutchison, who was also said to be involved in the texting.

Burckle told the Southern California News Group in a recent story that the messages “were so aggressive.”

She said she reported the incident and forwarded the texts and a voice message to then-USA Swimming national team assistant coach Jack Roach, who forwarded it to then-national team director Frank Busch, who was Bowman’s boss.

Busch put Bowman on notice about the incident in a June 3, 2011, letter that stressed “it is important you understand the severity of this situation,” the newspaper said.

Burckle said Bowman apologized to her, but she never heard from Hutchison.

Three months later, Bowman was named an assistant on the U.S. Olympic coaching staff for the 2012 London Games. He served as head men’s coach at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

“Certainly from hindsight, I don’t think that’s how I would have handled the situation quite frankly,” USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said Wednesday. “Regardless of age, gender, athlete, non-athlete, no one deserves to have communications like that.”

Asked what he would have done differently, Hinchey said, “If this happened today with one of our coaches, I can’t see appointing him to an Olympic team.”

Hinchey said he would defer to national team director Lindsay Mintenko on the likelihood of Bowman being part of any U.S. national teams in the future.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Tim about the situation yet and so it would be premature to give a comment about what he talked about today,” she said. “It’s kind of a team effort when we have these discussions. If it comes to it, we’ll cross that bridge.”

Hinchey, who succeeded the late Chuck Wielgus in June 2017, sent a letter earlier this year to members of the national governing body stating a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse or misconduct.

“I said zero tolerance and I mean it,” Hinchey said.

However, he also said he doesn’t have reservations about Bowman working with swimmers going forward.

“From a coaching perspective, his resume speaks for itself,” Hinchey said.

Bowman currently coaches Arizona State’s men’s and women’s teams, and after a recent review by the university it said he’s been warned that similar behavior won’t be tolerated. The university said in a statement that it was unaware of the incident when Bowman was hired in 2015.

“I regret the exercise of poor judgment in being involved one evening seven years ago with inappropriate communications,” Bowman said in a text to The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I promptly apologized to the person to whom the communications were sent and my apology was accepted.”

Bowman is in Irvine, California, this week to coach ASU swimmers competing in the U.S. national championships.

“Bob certainly doesn’t feel good about this, I can tell by his reaction,” Hinchey said.

In February, former world champion swimmer Ariana Kukors accused Hutchison of sexually abusing her for years and has filed a civil suit against him, USA Swimming and former national team director Mark Schubert, among others. Hutchison has said it was a consensual relationship.

Hinchey confirmed that Hutchison is no longer a member of USA Swimming.

Burckle won a bronze medal as part of the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The next year she trained under Hutchison in Fullerton, California, before retiring in 2010 at age 24.

Now 32, she said she is speaking out in an effort to change the culture within swimming and Olympic sports.

“For me it’s the principle of it,” Burckle told the newspaper. “It’s about giving people the respect they deserve and shouldn’t have to ask for.”

Arizona State Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson reviewed the matter involving Bowman after being alerted to it by the Southern California News Group story. During an interview with Anderson, Bowman confirmed his involvement in the text messaging, the university’s statement said.

ASU said Bowman apologized to Burckle, whom it didn’t name, in front of Busch, who recommended Bowman to ASU when it was hiring a coach.

Anderson said ASU hasn’t received any allegations of misconduct related to Bowman from students, faculty or staff.

USA Swimming said in a statement that in 2011 it was made aware of inappropriate texts sent to an adult former member athlete by a member coach. It didn’t name Burckle or Bowman.

“The organization does not condone this type of communication no matter the relationship between the parties,” USA Swimming said. “The issue was addressed by USA Swimming, and warning letters were issued to the offending parties, which also included a non-athlete member in the presence of the coach.”

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