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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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Bob Bowman coy on Michael Phelps’ place on relays

Michael Phelps, Bob Bowman
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The Olympic swimming competition starts Saturday, and it’s still unknown when Michael Phelps will make his first splash of his fifth and final Olympics.

Phelps could debut in the 200m butterfly first round on Aug. 8. Or, if he’s placed on the 4x100m freestyle relay team, despite not swimming the 100m free at the Olympic Trials, he would swim Aug. 7.

The U.S. coaching staff decides which swimmers make up relays.

U.S. men’s head coach Bob Bowman (also Phelps’ longtime personal coach) was asked Saturday by NBC Atlanta 11Alive’s Matt Pearl what Phelps’ chances were of being part of 4x100m and 4x200m free relays.

“I do know,” Bowman said at a U.S. training camp in Atlanta. “I won’t tell you.”

Phelps made the U.S. Olympic team in the 100m and 200m butterflies and the 200m individual medley by winning those events at the Olympic Trials last month. By winning the 100m butterfly, he also earned a place on the 4x100m medley relay.

Phelps is guaranteed four events at the Olympics, but he could swim in as many as six if the U.S. coaching staff determines he’s a strong option for either the 4x100m or 4x200m freestyle relays.

Phelps swam on both relays at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but he raced neither the 100m nor the 200m freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Trials. There is precedent for Phelps being put on relays after not swimming the individual event at Trials — in 2004 and 2012 he didn’t swim the 100m free at Trials.

MORE: Phelps is Olympic team captain for first time