The ladies’s 400 I.M. ultimate on the primary night time featured one other of Phelps’s mentees, Hali Flickinger, who didn’t want any of the powerful love he doled out to Kalisz. She was her personal worst adversary, she admitted, sabotaging her success with damaging self-talk. Flickinger moved to Tempe, Ariz., to coach with Phelps’s longtime coach, Bob Bowman, after the 2019 World Championships. She had earned a silver medal within the 200 butterfly that hung like a picket nickel round her neck due to the way in which she misplaced the gold, by swimming a panicky race and getting handed within the ultimate meters by Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas.
Flickinger stayed with Phelps, his spouse, Nicole, and their three small sons till her husband joined her from Georgia. Many afternoons after apply, she would preserve Phelps firm within the kitchen as he was making ready dinner and discuss his racing mind-set.
“Once I obtained to Arizona, there was lots that I wanted to determine mentally,” Flickinger mentioned.
One dialog caught in her head. She requested Phelps what he thought of when he stepped on the blocks. He advised her he lived for the races as a result of they had been the reward for all his onerous work. The races had been essentially the most enjoyable he had in swimming and the larger the stage, the higher his enjoyment. His embrace of the second, he mentioned, sprang from his pleasure to money out all of the work he had banked.
His response flipped a swap in Flickinger’s thoughts. She remembered considering her mind-set was the precise reverse. “I used to be petrified of races,” she mentioned. “It had simply been years of me considering the flawed manner and being concerned about issues I can’t management.”
As 2019 turned to 2020, Flickinger continued to have conversations with Phelps about course of and positivity. On the similar time, Phelps was listening to from Bowman about Flickinger’s capability for work. She did butterfly units and punishing I.M. exercises that boggled his thoughts. When he advised her that he couldn’t conceive of a few of the issues she was managing to do in apply, Flickinger was incredulous.
“I’d stroll away from these units a whole lot of instances disenchanted, not realizing what I’d performed,” mentioned Flickinger, who gained confidence by seeing herself as a performer by the eyes of her sport’s best champion.