Bob Bowman, the legendary swim coach of all-time great Olympian Michael Phelps
Bowman, who coached Michael Phelps to 23 Olympic golds has also coached Chase Kalisz who won the USA's first gold in Tokyo
Every Olympic gold has the winner's name attached to it, but not the army of people it takes to climb to the top of that podium. The world is full of diamonds in the rough, but it takes a distinct type of talent to make the jewel that goes on the crown. Twenty three gold, three silver and two bronze medals are what Michael Phelps has won in his elusive Olympic career. Bob Bowman can proudly put the same in his resume as a coach of Phelps, having trained the man since he was 11 years old. Bowman first saw Phelps, seven at the time, at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club when Phelps came for a 60-minute technique clinic with Cathy Lears.
Bowman had an idea of Phelps's swimming abilities looking at his elder sisters Hilary and Whitney Philips, who were competitive swimmers. Hilary was a National swimmer, and Whitney made the 1994 World Championship in Rome for team USA in 200m fly. We have seen Superstars who started with a different sport and mastered another sport entirely through Coach's intervention. But Bowman was convinced that Phelps was born to become a swimmer and a great one too.
Here is a quote from Bowman's feature on a 2003 edition of the 'Swimming Technique' "Supportive parents have aided his (Michael Phelps) climb immensely. They had been through the drill with the older daughters. Then there's Michael's physique: at 6'4", he is mostly torso with a large chest and long arms. It's a body great for swimming. He is very flexible throughout the shoulders, upper body and especially in the ankles."
The Coaching Journey
Bowman started his coaching journey at his alma mater, Florida State University as an assistant coach, where he was the swimming captain for the team during his college days. After short stints at Napa Valley Swim Team and Cincinnati Pepsi Marlins, Bowman became the head coach and director of the Birmingham Swim League in 1992. He was coaching at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club from 1996 to 2004 in Baltimore, where his eye caught a young Michael Phelps.
Bowman was pivotal throughout the journey of Michael Phelps, from becoming the Youngest male swimmer (Fifteen at the time) to make the Olympic swim team in 68 years at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to retiring in Rio 2016 with 23 gold medals. Bowman was the head coach for the US swim team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Despite his immense contribution to the world of swimming through Michael Phelps and others, Bowman remains humble to the core, "You know what I think my greatest accomplishment is? I got to help somebody who changed the way the world thinks about swimming. You know, the sport's a different sport after Michael swam than it was before he swam. And just being a part of that, that's probably my greatest accomplishment. Of course, he did all the important stuff. I was just in the background," he told SwimSwam magazine.
Still an inspiration
Bowman's inspiration did not finish with Phelps but continues into the Tokyo Olympics with Chase Kalisz, who won the 400m Individual Medley opening the USA's golden account in Tokyo. Kalisz, who settled for silver in Rio 2016, told 12News, "There has been ups and downs and I know I'm not that easy to work with, but he (Bowman) has stuck with me, and I stuck with him and we both kind of believed in each other and trusted the process."
Bowman has also tutored Hali Flickinger who won the bronze medal in Women's 400m Individual Medley behind Yui Ohashi and Emma Weyant in the final at the Tokyo Olympics!