On March 1 Bowman was waiting in the lobby of the Kennedy Center in Washington before an Evgeny Kissin concert when his own maestro called. "You ready for four more years?" Phelps asked him. Bowman smiled but feigned indifference. "Of what?" he replied.
"I'm ready to go," Phelps insisted.
Bowman was hopeful, but not yet convinced. "The next day [at practice] he did everything I asked," the coach recalls. "He was fired up. When he's attacking his goals, that's when he's really on." On March 3 Phelps sent Bowman an e-mail with his own target times for his entire program through the London Olympics in 2012. "He doesn't feel any more pressure to win medals," Bowman says. "We're doing it because he wants to do it, kind of like when he was 12." Phelps is indeed back in his element.