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"You can do a 3,000," Bowman says cajolingly.
"I won't do it," Phelps says, with a defiant shake of the head.
Bowman turns toward him. He's still smiling, but the smile has tightened. "You will do a 3,000."
"Absolutely not," Phelps says, heading into the restaurant. "I don't do what he says 100 percent of the time," he adds over his shoulder. "That's when he gets mad."
It's not Felix and Oscar exactly, because the odd clash over timed 3,000s aside, there's little antagonism. Since 1996, when they first encountered each other at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where Phelps was a talented but almost uncontrollable age-group swimmer and Bowman was the new, whip-cracking coach, there has been love and there has been loathing (not always in that order), but most of all there has been mutual respect. It's as though they're a pair of rally racers. Phelps is the driver, piloting a futuristic vehicle with an outsized engine and sick lines; Bowman is the navigator, unfurling computer models of the most efficient routes and best road conditions, knowing precisely which map has the most accurate topographic profile.
So it's surprising to learn that when Bowman recently named a horse after a swimmer, it wasn't Phelps but rather his teammates the Vanderkaay brothers. How come? "Well, Number 1, that's a lot of pressure to put on a horse," Bowman says. "And Number 2, this horse is too nice. The one that bites me I'll name Michael."
IV. THE PLAN
The fake Michael Phelps stands on the block above lane 1—and here we have a problem. He has been hired as a stand-in for a PowerBar TV commercial being shot at an indoor pool in Commerce, Calif., and though his hair, at least, is identical and he swings his arms convincingly while 45 technicians adjust the lighting, the real Phelps would never, ever be starting a race from the outside lane.
Actually, at this moment the real Phelps is crammed into a jerry-rigged sound studio in the pool's sauna, fully clothed in low-slung blue jeans, flip-flops and a PowerBar T-shirt. On his head is a Dodgers cap jammed down and backward. He yawns broadly.
"O.K., Michael," the director, standing next to him, says. "Project. Not exactly anger, but we need more energy. You're on the starting blocks. Intense. We need intense."