"This is almost certainly his last shot at being the gold medalist," Boldon said, "and even a broken clock is right twice a day."
Bolt does seem to appreciate what is at stake.
Perhaps mindful of how Phelps' spectacular showing took plenty of attention away from his own feats, Bolt speaks about wanting to provide a suitable encore to cement his standing in sports history.
"I have a goal. I want to be a legend," Bolt said. "And this Olympics, I think, will be the one to make it (so) because it's in London. It's central. It's where everyone is watching."
He'll turn 26 about a week after these Olympics close, and it's certainly possible he could be back in the starting blocks for the 2016 Games. Phelps, who turned 27 last month, insists this is his last hurrah, the final time he'll compete.
Phelps' performance at the Water Cube — eight gold medals, seven world records — was THE story of the 2008 Summer Games, raising his career total to 14 victories, five more than any other Olympian in any sport. He has 16 medals overall, just a tad short of being the greatest Olympian ever. The record, 18 total medals, belongs to Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
She captured nine golds, five silvers, four bronzes over three games from 1956-64. Phelps should eclipse that mark halfway through his program in London.
While still relatively young — Dana Torres attempted to make another Olympic team at 45, and Janet Evans at 40 — Phelps insists that he's done as soon as his hand touches the wall for the final time in London.
He's spent much of the past year savoring moments from his brilliant career, including his Olympic debut as a 15-year-old at Sydney in 2000. He swan only one event (finishing fifth, by the way), but it set the tone for all the victories to come.
"I was so young and I accomplished one of my goals," he recalled.
Phelps has always relished challenges, latching on to everything from a youthful goal or perceived slight to fuel his objectives. Early on, it was his desire to break Spitz's Olympic record from the 1972 Munich Games. Along the way, Phelps was spurred on by various rivals, whether it was losing to Ian Crocker in the 2005 world championships or showing that his one-hundredth of a second victory over Milorad Cavic at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was no fluke.
Now, he's got Lochte, eager to prove he's the world's greatest swimmer.
"That's something that does make me enjoy racing him," Phelps said. "It's definitely helped because I got kind of annoyed and fed up with getting my butt handed to me every race. In big meets, like last year at worlds, it's not fun to lose. I didn't want it to happen anymore, so I started training."
Don't underestimate Phelps' desire to defeat Lochte.
Or anyone standing in the way, for that matter.
"Yeah," Phelps acknowledged, "I have used it as motivation throughout the year and I'll continue to use it as motivation for the next couple weeks. We're obviously going to be training with each other and next to each other.
"It will be some fun races," he added. "I will say that."
But it won't be a Beijing do-over. Phelps' longtime coach, Bob Bowman, knew his pupil didn't train as hard during the last four years as he did leading up to the past two Olympics. Plus, Phelps is four years older, his body battered by a dozen years of world-class swimming. And, really, what does he have to gain by attempting to tie his own record from 2008?
So coach and swimmer decided to drop an event and wipe out any speculation about another eight gold medals.
But Phelps is likely to swim more events in London that any other swimmer except his 17-year-old teammate, Missy Franklin, who's also set to compete seven times.
"I have a big event program," Phelps pointed out. Dropping an event "just allows me to put my energy elsewhere instead of trying to control it for another three races."