Back on Top, Michael Phelps Brings Greater Excitement To The Road To Rio

Michael Phelps [Patrick B. Kraemer]

Coming off a sterling performance at the United States National Championships, Michael Phelps looked like his former self and has added intrigue to the road to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

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Coming off a sterling performance at the United States National Championships, Michael Phelps looked like his former self and has added intrigue to the road to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.



I have the say that I was positively surprised by the times Michael swam at the Nationals. I expected him to be fast but not so fast. Another proof that one can never write off the GOAT especially when he is focused and committed.
IMO unless something major happens between now and Rio he will add at least 2 golds to his medal count.
He needs to be really carefull with his schedule and not to put too much on his shoulders. I think 3 individual events + 3 relays is the maximum. Even 2 + 2 would do although I do not think he would enjoy being in stands and watching the US team get their butts kicked.
Do we know when the Olympic schedule is going to be announced? Was the schedule identical in the last 2-3 OG?


Its really great to see Michael back in such great form. Thanks for the article John.

Running the risk of eating my words next year, I am going to make a rather bold statement. Watching Phelps over the last year, I have been rather skeptical of his ability to get back to his form of 2007 (forgive me for thinking that this was his best season ever, even though he had the greatest 08 in OG history) but now i believe.

Forget the 2:00 he swam on the 200 fly, he hasnt made an 8 second improvement in a few months, we know this is not really possible at that level, however, i do believe that he has been through grueling training, and that 2:00 was reflections of that.

All he has to do is keep healthy, and put the same work he has done over the last 3 months into the last year. 3 blocks like that with a month of normal training in between and he is going to be back to PB’s


The double taper. MP has to be in good enough shape to survive it. The biggest problem will be the 100 fly. Miss a turn or blow the finish and someone else could slip in there. I know I sound like a broken record, but that is the biggest obstacle for US swimmers at the Olympics.

Felix Sanchez

In some ways the biggest risk, now that the times have been so good, is that he over stretches himself. After that performance it would no doubt be hard to bypass the 200fly, but it will also be hard to swim it three times in the midst of several other event. Whereas if he can keep sharp he’ll be favourite for gold in the 100fly and 200IM, and of course the medley relay.

I believe the 200IM WR should be achievable. The fact that he and Lochte both have swum their best times in textile will be an encouragement. He also probably thinks he left a bit on the table when he swum it in LZR. The 2008 Olympic final was, of course, in the middle of a busy schedule, but also came before another swim in that session. Having recently re-watched it, it does look like he could have pushed harder on the freestyle leg, but was clear of the field and just kept under control. And while it’s rarely this simple, Phelps knows he’s faster than Lochte on butterfly and freestyle, pretty much equal on the back, and has just shown a very impressive 200 breaststroke.


“When the Super Suit Circus brought its big top to Rome for the 2009 World Championships, Bowman suggested he would keep his prized pupil, Michael Phelps, out of major action until the ridiculousness ended”.

But when the the year before his pupil had the best suit around, and swimmers who didn’t have it complained they were at a disadvantage, he did not utter a word, did he? No “ridiculousness” back then …

I guess it’s all about sponsorship agreements


^ Let’s just be happy that now it’s more swimming and less equipment again.

John Lohn

ThereaLuigi, the reason Bob did not say anything the prior year was that he was uncertain as to the impact of suits. Things went to another level in 2009, and Bob opening his mouth played a big role in the sport returning to what it should have been about all along: Pure talent.


I am sorry John Loan, I don’t buy it, neither should you. Everyone and his brother knew about the impact of the new suit. Records started falling the very week the LZR was introduced. A ridiculous percentage of all medals won/all records broken at the Beijing Olympics had a swimmer wearing a Speedo LZR suit behind them.
Mr Bowman, who I otherwise admire, opened his mouth only when the new thing wasn’t anymore his swimmer’s suit (and a suit he had been paid to help develop), and his pupil was being beat/his records broken. This is what he said in 2008 when the controversy sparked: “I think that everything in the world evolves and improves, and you just can’t go back to that simpler time, even though you may want to be nostalgic for it.We are where we are and we need to keep moving forward.” That’s 2008 Bob Bowman. Compare him to 2009 Bowman and you will see the hypocrisy.

I am particularly touchy about this because the late Castagnetti, coach of the Italian national team, in early 2008 was a very outspoken opponent of the new suits, but he was derided by the swimming community. I am not sure he lived long enough to see history proving him right.

John Lohn

ThereaLuigi, we’re going to disagree here. I never said Bowman didn’t see an impact, but I stand by saying that he was not fully aware of how great the impact was until 2009. The suit era was a two-parter, the Jaked and Arena rubber models vastly changing the sport in comparison to the LZR. That is when skill was completely taken out of the sport in many cases.

Craig Lord

Therealuigi: a vast majority of folk in 2008 did not see a problem, months after I wrote a column in February 2008 and again in March 2008 (and I never let up after that) noting that something alien had been poured into the pool and it had to go. Bob Bowman was a coach who had a giant on his hands, the man behind the extraordinary achievements of 2007… it is perfectly feasible that he did not believe the poly jammers or even bodysuits had that great an impact on performance … and then the ante was upped in 2009 … and even then it was not until Rome that we saw the full impact of what I, among others, had predicted would happen….
As for Alberto: he might have been derided elsewhere but not by me: I was very careful to cover in articles what the head of arena said at the time; what Alberto said at the time – and I quoted Alberto extensively – and in editorials noted my agreement with what he was saying.
This team at SwimVortex has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to discussion on suits: and this author in particular has every reason to celebrate his role in sinking the suits. If Bob Bowman has anything to look back and regret on suits, it would be the same or less than the vast majority of the swimming community at the time – a community that was largely very relieved that swimming was returned to swimmers on January 1, 2010. Best, Craig

Lennart van Haaften

I still feel that Phelps better skips the 200 fly in Rio. The 200 IM could be his best chance at individual gold, as Lochte seems to have lost a bit of form since London, exhausting himself in 2012-2014, whereas Phelps seems fresh and hungry. That 1-2 year break may have been the best decision ever. And Hagino may not be able to go 1.54 low.

Just the 200 IM, 100 fly, and 3 relays would be a nice schedule for Phelps, and he wouldn’t hurt his chances by swimming too much before his strongest events. Then again, recapturing the 200 fly gold would be very special. But I can see Le Clos going 1:52 low so it may not be Phelps’s best chance at gold.

paolo rubbiani

@ThereaLuigi: I’m also an Italian swimming fan (like my nickname shows) but I completely disagree from your point of view.

I could write a lot about 2008-2009 because I perfectly remember those months, but in brief..

Do you remember the 100 fly final in Bejing? Six finalists in fully Speedo LZR and just two with only the leggins of Speedo LZR: Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker.

This because Phelps and Crocker and their coaches had highly underestimate the importance of the suit (only in Rome 2009 Phelps swam the 100fly final with a whole LZR suit, but in that eponimous final Cavic had a whole Arena 100% poly suit, i.e again an advantage of suit, surely a greater advantage than the year before).

So I’m pretty sure that Phelps and Crocker had the minor advantage, among all those finalists in Bejing, from LZR suit.
And if you remember the 100fly at Worlds in Melbourne one year before (all the swimmers in textile suits) who had the minor improvement ?
The first two in Melbourne, Phelps and Crocker.

Thus, I’m also pretty sure that with a textile suit Cavic wouldn’t have swum so close to Phelps, nearly winning that race.

And about the great Castagnetti, do you remember his comment in Rome2009 at Italian television just after the 200 free final won by Biedermann?
He told that the different suits (Fully poly for Biedermann and 50% poly for Phelps) have had a large impact, because all the experts knew that those suits were not equal, absolutely not equal.

And even if the suits were equal, already at that time, and more after, they provided different advantages at different swimmers (in brief, more at swimmers less efficient in the water), like Craig Lord swam for months in that troubled period.

paolo rubbiani

Edit: And even if the suits were equal, already at that time, and more after, was clear that they provided different advantages..

paolo rubbiani

Edit: like Craig Lord wrote for months (not swam lol) in that troubled period


Um, a couple quick points about the suits. Even in 2009 the suits did not “take all skill out of the sport”, lol. Mr. Lohn, you should know better than to make a statement like that. Come on. The more buoyant suits helped some more than others depending on body type and swimming style, but they did help everyone. Also- modern suits are still tech, but not the the extent they used to be.

For the record, I was always against the full body suits of all designs; they did a lot of damage to the sport.


Dear Craig, I know which side you were on at the time, I never meant for a second to imply anything regarding you or Swimvortex in my first post. It goes to your credit that you were one of those with their eyes open.
At the same time, while I respect your and John Lohn’s opinion on Mr Bowman, I respectfully maintain mine.
That is not to detract anything from Mr Bowman, who remains in my opinion a great coach and a clever man, or M. Phelps, who is the greatest swimmer of our era, suits or not suits.

John Lohn

EasySpeed, I always point to Brendan Hansen when someone says the suits helped everyone. They didn’t help Brendan at all. He was a technician from wall to wall and lost that edge with the suits.

John Lohn

And, the suits did take the skill out. They put skill on the back burner, it replaced by technology. (Note: This obviously references those athletes who could compete in the first place internationally, not a guy on the corner throwing on a suit).


I have the same opinion to ThereaLuigi regarding Bowman and the suits.

There was certainly a change in public expression by Bowman regarding the shiny suits between pre-Rome and in-Rome.

Craig Lord

Dear ThereaLuigi, thanks for your reply. I imagined that to be the case. And yes, I agree that Bob Bowman, in common with the vast majority of coaches, did and said far too little for the bulk of 2008. Coaches in Europe staged a poolside protest in Rijeka Dec 2008 at Euro s/c champs and that was very much to their credit… I wish that had all come earlier. I would defend Bob Bowman in this sense: coaches earn their living in the sport, generation after generation, the shiny suits debacle put them in a truly difficult situation – the suits were there and they had to work with them… what I never heard Bowman say was that ‘my swimmer is this good, it has nothing to do with the suits’; in 2008 he studiously avoided saying much at all, as far as I can recall. He use, of course, have known that something was up … as did most coaches. Legacy wise, Bob Bowman will be recalled for the events of 2009 when he realised filly what was happening and what that would mean for swimming. Yes, we can all look back in anger and wish that far more had been done to stop the advance of madness much earlier. Ultimately, I am happy to applaud all those who, come the crunch, said ‘enough’ and did something that gave FINA etc no choice but to stop the rot and set a date. The true culprits in the whole sorry episode are the politicians who were too lazy and uncaring to know and appreciate what it would all mean for their sport – the same people now running an industry in suit checks and balances that brings the intl fed a nice little earner… best, Craig


I am with John Lohn:The suits did take the skill out of some swimmers(some more than others). To confirm that, just watch(closely) Cesar Cielo 50 and 100 frees from 2010 PanPacs champs.It was ridiculous watching him well ahead at 45 and 90 metres and dying suddenly, like a car out of gas.And at that time, his start was in another level(like Manaudou).

aswimfan and ThereaLuigi,
I am with all of you regarding Bowman and the suits.


By the way, one of the reasons I believe 2007 Phelps was the best Phelps to date is the fact he didn’t wear a LZR at the time.

Going back to the original subject of the article, I have been saying for a long time that Phelps should ditch the 200 fly because he was too old for it. He then clocked that monster time we know at Nationals and shut me up. Lesson learnt, I am not going to open my mouth ever again about what he should or should not do. I am left to wonder whether he is the exception that proves the rule or I have misconceptions regarding the races that older athletes can effectively compete in. I have always thought that the 400 IM and the 200 (or longer) of all single-stroke races were for the very young. Now I don’t know anymore. Czeh is another good case in point. And Federica, after all, grabbed a silver at 27.


The shiny suit debacle is one that i don’t care much for.

Michael’s times from 07 where still extremely competitive in 08, and 09. Why did he wear the LZR, because why should all his hard work for the past Olympic cycle go to waste because of a suit.

There were alot of swimmers that did times that were outrageous. M200 free, mens 800 free (forget the 400, that was not outrageous, a Thorpe from 2000 would have still been competitive.)

The swimmers did not ask for this to happen.
One swim that will always stand out for me was the 4:22.88 of my friend on 400 IM. It was then a world record. She was working very hard, she was talented, and her effort was poo poo’ed because of the suit she was wearing. A little secret, she would have probably gone a hell of a lot faster. She was so sick the night before, had no sleep, and did 100m warm up. ( i watched it, 100 reverse medley).

My point is this, suits were made by suit makers, endorsed by FINA, and worn by swimmers who didn’t want to lose on a technicality. Yes, some were affected more than others, but i find it pointless to argue about, and have a “oh woe is me” attitude, when it was out of the control of the swimmer.

Would we have them boycott? Some would say yes, others no, because in some countries, we needed the exposure and the results just to fund ourselves.

paolo rubbiani

@ThereaLuigi: I think that Speedo Lzr was an obstacle for Phelps feat of 8 golds in Beijng2008.
Look at the final of 100fly: six swimmers in full Speedo Lzr (Cavic among those) and just two, Phelps and Crocker, with Lzr leggins.
This shows how Phelps and Bowman (and Crocker and his coach as well) underestimated the importance of LZR suit.
A simple comparison between the results of 100fly at Worlds2007 (all in textile suits) and at Olympics2008 proves that Phelps and Crocker were the swimmers with less improvement in their times from LZR.
Whereas Cavic, Munoz-Perez and Lauterstein (and many others) swam all PB with great improvements.
Many thought that Phelps 2007 was the best year in his career.
Well.., I remember also 2003 and 2004.
And about 2008, I think that was also a great Phelps (he often cites that 1.42.9 of 200 free like his best race ever) also reminding that Phelps had to fight against adversities in Beijng (200fly final who swam blind) and great swimmers, like Cavic, who swam just one event and I think had more advantage from Speedo LZR.


Roy, whilst I can agree with your sentiment re Hagino trying to emulate Phelps; I WILL take issue with you re JAP relays.

I grant you that JAP has no M4X100 but then again, the state of US male sprinting is such that this would be no “pencilled in” medal for Phelps either.

Bring Hagino back into their 4×200 & they’re competitive; remember they were no2 rank in 2014 with a 7.05.30 which would’ve won bronze in Kazan.

Curious you say that the JAP 4XMED is “not competitive”. Granted they were only 6th in Kazan, but they were only 0.6sec away from the medals.

Yes, relay medals for JAP are by no means a certainty, whereas the MX200 & 4XMED usually are for the USA; but they are far from out of the question. There were some teams wining relay medals in Kazan that are long odds to repeat in Rio.


Mr. Lohn: I love your writing! Thanks for adding a high-point to my day with this article!

As Phelps stated to the press after his 200 fly swim in San Antonio, “I can do whatever I put my mind to, and this next year is going to be pretty damn fun!” You and Mr. Lord can count on me reading the articles on your website pretty much every day until Rio because of the quality to be found here.


An obstacle, Paolo? Never.

Did it help other swimmers wearing it more than it helped him? Yes. I think the suits helped especially those with a weak back-end. And Phelps had a strong back-end.

But a swimmer with the suit was always at an advantage over a swimmer without the suit. Look at the stats.


>”I always point to Brendan Hansen when someone says the suits helped everyone. They didn’t help Brendan at all. He was a technician from wall to wall and lost that edge with the suits.”

Suits haven’t affected beaststroke as much as other strokes, that’s why we see so many WRs in breast nowadays, while most fly and free WRs remain untouchable.

Also, I see the point why Michael used only “pants” while swimming fly events. Body position changes a lot during the stroke cycle in butterfly. Swimmer is the slowest, when his legs sink before the second kick. Maybe swimming “topless” could help to eliminate the drag at this part of the stroke – raising legs a bit, while keeping upper body’s buoyancy at the same level, which leads to more flat/horizontal technique (I believe this is the direction in which butterfly is going to be improved in the near future – less wavy, more streamlined).

John Lohn

Eugene, the suits did have an impact and affect on breaststroke, regardless of its comparison to other strokes. Look at Sprenger and Shanteau in 200 breast, just for starters.

Craig Lord

Eugene: FYI – between 30 and 37% of all top 100 all-time breaststroke performances remain in the grip of shiny suits 50,100 and 200 – despite the world records and the speed at the helm of current gen. That’s in line with several other events and distances. So, 200m breaststroke compares with 50 free (one of the high-end impact events) at 34% to 41% of all-time top 100s belonging to shiny suits; and men 1500m free is less than 20%. The stats don’t back up the notion that breaststroke was less affected than other strokes.
And on ‘fly the Rome 2009 100 fly final showed us very well where full non-textile bodysuits took speed – not swimming speed, but apparel-assisted swimming speed.

paolo rubbiani

@ThereaLuigi: I wrote “I think that Speedo Lzr was an obstacle for Phelps feat of 8 golds in Beijng2008”, not for swimming PBs, this is obvious.
But other swimmers (I agree, particularly those with weakier back-ends) were much more aided, so the LZR was an obstacle for Phelps’ aim of winning 8 gold medals

Cavic was a 51.9-52.0 textile-swimmer in 2007 and with the Speedo swam 50.5 in Beijing (with the Arena 100% poly 49.9-50.0), not to talk about Munoz or Lauterstein who had even more advantage from the shiny suits (different advantages to different swimmers.., swimming was really a suit-aided sport in 2008 and even more in 2009 with the 100%poly).

Phelps was a 50.7-50.8 textile-swimmer in 2007 and with the Speedo LZR swam 50.5 in 2008 and then 49.8 in Rome 2009, with a slimmer schedule and the powerful boost of Cavic verbal challenge.

In my opinion, you’re right about Bowman in this sense.
Bowman (like Speedo as well) was short-sighted about the suits because he didn’t understand the structural change of sport that was beginning and, as a Speedo-testimonial, obviously supported the LZR.

Only after Beijing, and particularly in 2009 with other suit-makers introducing suits 100%poly much more performing that LZR, all was clear, at Bowman and many others.

In a certain way, 2009 was the right punishment for Speedo (all the australian team and many, many US and britain swimmers abandoned Speedo to wear Arena or Adidas or Jacked 100% poly suits) and for everyone, like Bowman, short-sighted at the beginning of the process.

But, for swimming as a great sport of men and women, a year (or two, also considering 2008) of punishment was more than enough..

Craig Lord

More than enough, indeed, Paolo.


Paolo I agree with your last sentence. And I share the view that 2009 was a logic consequence of 2008.

Now regarding Phelps. He is the greatest swimmer of this generation. No question about it. But we will never know how much the suit helped him to achieve his extraordinary feat in 2008. For example, it could be that the suit helped him to cope with his grueling schedule, by easing fatigue; i.e., not in any given individual race, but in the program as a whole.

Furthermore, it is unfair to assess the impact of the suit on Phelps relative only to other swimmers wearing the same suit. What about all the swimmers that DIDNT wear it at all? Both in the individual races and the relays.
Would it have been 8 golds, Paolo? Can you honestly tell me for sure he would have won 8 golds anyway? I could not.

paolo rubbiani

@ThereaLuigi: Your latest arguments are interesting about your position, anyway..

You know that one year before Beijing, at Worlds2007 in Melbourne, with every swimmer in textile suit, Phelps won exactly the 5 individual races that he won in Beijing2008 .
Seven golds in total, the eight didn’t arrive because of DQ of mixed relay (Crocker started a little bit too early, -0.03 his t.s.).
So, in Melbourne2007 Phelps completed succesfully his grueling schedule without 50% poly suit.
And I also remind you that Phelps (you have been perhaps too bold calling him the geatest swimmer of his generation….lol) already in Athens2004 swam 5 individual races with 4 golds and 1 bronze.

Returning to 2007, Phelps finished that year with a great performance at Nationals in Indy at mid-August ( swam near the WRs both in 100 and 200 backstrokes).

Now, all is possible, but I think that Phelps in that shape and fully committed versus his target, i.e Spitz record (in 2007-2008 no distraction at all), was in the best possible position with those textile suits (sic stantibus rebus would say the Old Romans).

Then, in early 2008, Speedo and Tyr launched their 50% poly suits and Fina, unfortunately, allowed their use.
Great, great mistake, it’s clear, but, like I already wrote over, after all, I think that was more an obstacle for Phelps target in Beijing than an help. At any rate, I think that it didn’t change the results.

About the swimmers in Beijing, all the great competitors of Phelps used Speedo LZR (that was available for every swimmers weeks before the beginning of Olympics) except Laszlo Cseh, who decided to went on with his Arena R-evolution, a great suit too, and swam PBs in every races.
But Laszlo chose to swim with his Arena’s suit (like Sara Isakovic, who scared Federica Pellegrini in 200 free) and, after Beijing races, I suppose that he never thought that Phelps (that in Hungary call the ET.) won 8 golds because of the suit…
No, I think that he wasn’t neither doubtful like you – perfectly legitimately – are.

P.S. sorry for my poor English.

paolo rubbiani

Edit: Except Laszlo Cseh, who decided to go on with his Arena R-evolution..

paolo rubbiani

And because you are (legitimately) doubtful also about the relays, I remind you the only relay with a real struggle: the 4×100 free and that incredible anchor with Lezak surpassing Bernard in the last metres.
All is possible, certainly, but reminding the French athletes in that relay, they all, obviously, swam with a 50%poly-suit (Speedo and Tyr) like the americans, and a pure sprinter like Bousquet – who swam a great third leg and took advantage towards Cullen Jones – was really competitive in 100 free only in those two years (2008-2009) of shiny suits.
After all, considering their history and stats before and after, I think that even those 4 French swimmers weren’t negatively affected from Speedo LZR in comparison with that Usa squad.
But I know very well that the astonishing fourth leg, with Lezak gaining a lot of ground toward Bernard (then olympic 100free individual champion!) was a bitter mouthful for those swimming fans, widely spread in the swimming world and also in Italy, that (legitimately) were hoping in the failure of Phelps assault at Spitz record..
All legitimate, clear…


IMHO, one great thing that suits have taught us is the importance of core stability in swimming. All strokes, but especially freestyle.

Craig Lord

Yes, Eugene … of course, some had already understood that long before and had been working on it, folk like Milt Nelms and those who work with him, among others. To see it played out en masse was a big eye opener for many … a fair few of those objecting to non-textile early in the 22-23-month saga noted the impact on core stability and the negation of the kind of work required to achieve the same results. In the midst of it all, Nelms drew clear attention to angles of buoyancy and the importance of all of that.


>”Eugene, the suits did have an impact and affect on breaststroke, regardless of its comparison to other strokes”
>”Eugene: FYI – between 30 and 37% of all top 100 all-time breaststroke performances remain in the grip of shiny suits 50,100 and 200 – despite the world records and the speed at the helm of current gen.”

I didn’t say breaststrokers got no advantage of suits at all. But the effect was not so huge as for freestylers, especially men. All LCM breaststroke WRs from 2009 were broken later in textile: 50, 100, 200, men and women. Some of them – multiple times by different athletes. While in freestyle we have only two monsters of distance swimming – Ledecky and Sun Yang who set new records after suites were banned. Enough said.

Just my opinion though.

Craig Lord

What you state is correct to a degree, Eugene … though … the point of impact does not rest on 1 or 2 or even a handful of swimmers … it rests deep through the ranks from top 20 to 50 to 100… that’s where you see true difference in impact … and breaststroke was not much different to other strokes. There is a depth of thought that needs to be considered, such as men’s 100m breaststroke… in 2014, just one new arrival in the all-time top 50 remains on a lis that includes 20 swims still in the grip of shiny …. 2015 had 15 impacts on that same top 50 (that doesn’t mean new people, though a couple were, but people doing career bests); apply the same look to 100m butterfly and the figures are very similar: 2 career bests impacting in 2014 remain in 2015, a year with 15 new impacts in the top 50 all-time (the latter still with 26 swims belonging to shiny suits, so a touch more than breaststroke; the gap is smaller if you go to top 100, and top 150, top 200 etc). Beyond a few swimmers who have taken breaststroke on apace 2010-2015 – and that surface view – there is no concrete evidence that breaststroke was less impacted by shiny suits in any way that could be called significant that other strokes. That’s not opinion, just the bald facts deep through historic ranks. Your other point made in your other comment may be much more valid: much was learned from the suits debacle … and perhaps we have seen some of those lessons translated to the most resistant of strokes.

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