What Bob Bowman Said to Michael Phelps Ahead of 2008 Olympic Final in 100 Fly

Swimming World November 2019 Takeoff to Tokyo The Sydney 6 Michael Phelps Bob Bowman

What Bob Bowman Said to Michael Phelps Ahead of 2008 Olympic Final in 100 Fly

As we count down the days to the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo, there are ample opportunities to relive some of the greatest moments in Olympic lore. It could be Fanny Durack becoming the first female champion. It could be Johnny Weissmuller going back-to-back in the 100 freestyle. It could be Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals in 1972. It could be Katie Ledecky and her breakout showing in the 800 freestyle at the 2012 Games in London.

Of course, we also easily recall the Great Eight, otherwise known as Michael Phelps‘ march to eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As part of that week in the Water Cube, Phelps mixed dominant performances with nail-biting finishes, none more prominent than the victory he claimed over Serbia’s Milorad Cavic in the 100-meter butterfly. In that event, which was Phelps’ seventh of the competition, the American prevailed by .01, using a last-second half-stroke to edge Cavic.

While a guest on the Inside with Brett Hawke Podcast, Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, vividly discussed the race, including what he said to his pupil in the leadup to that final. Bowman noted that he rarely spoke to Phelps – or any of his athletes – before races,  but instead used the months and days ahead of action to prepare him to achieve what was necessary.

“During Beijing, Michael and I had breakfast together every morning. It was just kind of the thing,” Bowman said. “We would do that, go to the venue and that would be it. So we’re sitting at breakfast before the 100 fly final and I didn’t want to do it, but I was like, you know what, this is going to be so close and I have to use everything I’ve got. I said, ‘You know what I read in the paper today?’ And he was like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘Cavic said it would be good for swimming if you did not win eight golds and he was the guy to do it. That’s literally what he said.’ And Michael physically got bigger and said, ‘He said what?’ I’ll never forget that. It was like he grew two inches. I was like, ‘Well, that’s what he said.’ And we didn’t even really talk about it. That’s all I needed to do. I was like, ‘OK, I’ve done all I can do now.’ He was ready at that point.”

During the race, Cavic opened a significant lead over Phelps on the opening lap, and maintained a sizable advantage down the second lap. And while Phelps was closing over the closing 50 meters, there was considerable concern whether Phelps had the room to overtake his foe. Ultimately, he used every bit of the 100 meters to get the job done, and to keep intact his chase for history.

Here is the full interview between Hawke and Bowman, which took place in October. Hawke’s podcast is celebrating its one-year anniversary and has been highly successful while featuring interviews with more than 100 of the top names in the sport.


  1. avatar
    Maurine Kornfeld

    Great story! Enjoyed reading it. Keep sending more.

    I’m a 99 year old Masters Swimmer admitted to the ISHOF in 2018 at Jacksonville. I workout in a public outdoor pool several days a week for my chlorine fix.

    • avatar

      Big Al- are you Al Romeu by chance? I remember you!

      -Victoria Randle

  2. avatar
    Big Al

    Less is always more where true champions are concerned 😉

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