Bob Bowman, head men's coach to the US and maestro to the Unfinished Phelpsian Symphony summed up the American strategy at the maddest meet in history: "We just tried to have as many lifetime bests as we can get." Team USA won the meet in Rome with 22 medals, 10 gold, 6 silver, 6 bronze.
Where do we go from here, he was asked as if there is gloom and doom to face. "It'll largely be the same old, same old because we largely didn't use the great suits and my team didn't use the good polyurethane suits. But I think it's still about fitness and technique and the basic things so that's what we'll work on."
Even so, Bowman was looking forward to a time when the suit is no longer significant: "The suit issues affect different people, differently so you can't say one country got an advantage and another didn't. That's what's so insidious about them because you don't know the effect they're going to have on anything so you can't compare individuals, you don't know anything."
Comparison will be back on the agenda from 2010 onwards, though it is unlikely that Phelps will meet his Rome nemesis next year. The first rematch may well be the next world-title fight in Shanghai 2011.
Bowman was gracious about the man who felled him chief charge, Paul Biedermann, of Germany. That had given Phelps a challenge to relish. "I think Biedermann is a wonderful swimmer; big, strong, young guy; good stroke," said Bowman. "I hope that any comments I made were not misconstrued to be negative about him. They were about the suits and I can't wait to see him swim in the same suit as everybody else."
Phelps would draw level and challenge the German for supremacy once more, predicted Bowman. "I know for Michael you can expect anything so I'm never really surprised. He can always pull out something like the 100 fly when he really needs it. We're going to go back and work on the 200 free that's a big motivator for him if he wants to race this kid. And he has times he wants to set, he motivates himself, he has goals he wants to achieve, he gives them to me and we work on them.
"It makes him want to train harder, he's been beaten many times, you guys have just never seen them but I've seen a lot of them."
Bowman summed up the Team US's leading role in Rome - 22 medals, 10, 6, 6 - by saying that the men had outperformed the women in the battle of the bodysuits. "I think the meet as a whole ended up for the men's part very positive, the women had some bright spots. I'm very pleased with our relays, I think we raced very well in those. Michael's kind of back in the game, which is good for us, and the guys that swam in Beijing kind of got back into it in various forms. It's great to see Aaron Peirsol breaking those records, so I'm pretty pleased with it."