ORLANDO, Florida, February 10. RYAN Lochte’s return to the race pool a little more than three months after suffering a crippling knee injury will be the biggest storyline to come from this weekend’s Arena Grand Prix in Orlando, but we’re bound to be talking about more than Lochte once the YMCA International Swim Center is emptied on Saturday night.
Lochte is racing six times, including the 200 individual medley. With Lochte likely still in rehab for his knee, breaststroke could still be an iffy stroke to swim, so we’ll see how he handles prelims and finals of that race. Diving off the blocks and pushing off the wall could present some issues, though if they were viewed as serious concerns, Lochte would probably not be racing this weekend.
Several of Lochte’s 2012 Olympic teammates will use the meet to continue their preparation for this summer’s nationals, which will serve as a selection meet for the 2014 Pan Pacific championships and 2015 world championships. Among them are Tyler Clary, Cullen Jones, Nick Thoman and Jimmy Feigen. Caitlin Leverenz, Claire Donahue, Micah Lawrence and Chloe Sutton are the only female American Olympians that appear to be racing in Florida this weekend, but they’ll have plenty of help to share the spotlight.
Megan Romano is the points leader in the Grand Prix series, and she’ll continue to add to her lead, though Leverenz is about three points behind in second place and can swim multiple events. Being at the top of the leaderboard is exciting this year, as all eligible athletes will be gunning for the one-year lease being offered by BMW to the male and female overall winner at the end of the circuit.
The two co-leaders on the men’s side, Yannick Agnel and Conor Dwyer, are not attending this meet, but they have such a large lead that they can afford to take a meet off to continue training.
Others to watch include the Hungarian Iron Lady, Katinka Hosszu, who is entered in the meet limit of nine events; Cesar Cielo in his first meet since relocating to Arizona full-time; Alia Atkinson, who took the FINA World Cup circuit by storm and nearly set world records in the sprint breaststrokes; Joe Schooling, who set a national high school record last fall in the 100 fly; the Hungarian sibling duo of Evelyn and David Verraszto; and Canadians Katerine Savard and Audrey Lacroix, two swimmers to watch for this summer in international racing.
The Arena Grand Prix in Orlando features preliminaries at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Thursday through Saturday, followed by finals each night at 6 p.m.