It once seemed impossible that anyone could go faster in the butterfly. By the time it happened, the most decorated Olympian had a growing family and no problem letting go of records.

A plaintive voice on the other end of the line was clearly distraught over the loss of a cherished possession. It was late at night at the world swimming championships in Gwangju, South Korea, but the breakfast hour halfway around the world where Phelps, his pregnant wife, Nicole, and their two sons, Boomer, 3, and Beckett, 1, were vacationing.

I had phoned Phelps from South Korea for his

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