"If we saw some other people internationally doing that we would be accusing them of performance-enhancing drugs," says Stephens. "But it just happens if you have a person who's ready to respond to the training and has the skill development and who is able to get a fantastic amount of personal attention."
"There's no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't be where I am today without Paul and NBAC," Hoff says.
Things to know about Katie Hoff:
She has an Olympic rings tattoo and her e-mail address contains an "08." The tattoo, on her lower right back, came after her breakout performance at the 2005 world championships in Montreal. She got parental permission after making the 2004 Olympic team but held back until she was sure she could make the statement stick.
She is one of the few female swimmers to accessorize her competition wardrobe. Swimmers do everything to cut down on drag in the pool, but Hoff refuses to part with her earrings, which she says give her a feminine look, even in a swimming cap.
She loves to dance and was taking lessons at a Towson studio before she decided earlier to put all her energy into Olympic training. Hip-hop is her favorite, but as in swimming, she's game for any style.
She was home-schooled, with the exception of fourth grade, as was her younger brother, Christian. "It was really a good start for them to be themselves and get really grounded, and then when they went out in the world they pretty much knew who they were," Jeanne Hoff says. "We just kind of took it one year at a time, and we just kept going."
Katie Hoff always sets goals with rewards. In the practice pool, she bets teammates. At the Omaha Swimvitational, the last Grand Prix competition before the Olympic trials, it was a gooey piece of cheesecake laced with chocolate and caramel. After her triumphant trials, it was indulging in one of her biggest weaknesses - purses - with a black Louis Vuitton model.
When she returns from the Olympics, it will be to her own home. Just before the Olympic trials, she closed on a condo near the North Baltimore Aquatic Club but had no time for decorating. Her mother painted the bedroom purple, her favorite color, and her parents moved furniture from their home to hers.
Growing up fast
The 2004 Olympics was a physical, mental and emotional roller coaster. Hoff got a crash course on growing up.
"Oh yeah, on everything," she says, with an uncomfortable chuckle. "I flew under the radar right up until Olympic trials and then I was hit with it like a bomb. ... I wasn't prepared.
"All my emotional energy was used just to make the team. So when I made it, and I made it in two events, I think I overshot myself," she says. "I was just trying to eke my way onto the team in one event. I was almost ready to go home after trials. It was, like, 'Oh, what? I have to compete again?' I kind of had to regroup and try to get myself psyched up again."
After trials, the team flew off to Majorca, Spain, for a pre-Olympic training camp. Hoff was by herself, on her first international trip.
During long-distance phone calls, Jeanne Hoff could hear the growing desperation in her daughter's voice and fretted that Yetter, her daughter's coach and emotional rock, was not allowed at training camp.
"Oh God, it was horrible, when your kid is struggling halfway around the world and there's nothing you can do about it," she says. "I would liked to have been in Athens even though I know it wouldn't have mattered. We had to pass it up because we couldn't afford to have all three of us go and we weren't going to leave Christian behind. It wasn't an easy decision. But Katie needed Paul, and nothing we could have done would have mattered."
The swimmer remembers those days. "I lost a lot of confidence and started doubting everything," Hoff recalls. "It was tough for me. My coach wasn't there for a lot of it leading up to the Olympics, so that was tough. You just try to stay confident in yourself and remember all the things that got you there."
That was, she acknowledges, easier said than done.
In Athens, she failed to make the final in the 400 IM - despite having the year's fastest time in the event - and as she left the pool, she got sick from nerves. For 24 hours, she couldn't keep food down. But when Yetter was able to finagle his way to her side, Hoff regrouped and four days later, she finished seventh in the 200 IM finals.
Hoff came home, dusted herself off and went back to work, her eye on the 2005 world championships in Montreal. When the time came, she responded, setting a world record in the 400 IM and winning the 200 IM and a relay gold medal.
"I proved I wasn't a fluke," she says. "I proved I belonged."
At the 2007 world championships in Melbourne, Australia, Hoff put more distance between herself and her first Olympic experience, setting another world record in the 400 IM and picking up gold medals in the 200 IM and the 4 x 200-meter freestyle.