Guest commentary by Pamela Roberts
With the Winter Olympics is Sochi, Russia still in full swing, my (and maybe some other people’s) attention is diverted to another place this coming weekend, far away from snow and ice, slopes and skating rinks. Starting Thursday, I’ll be back in front of my laptop, watching the Arena Grand Prix in Orlando. I’m going to watch the comeback of Ryan Lochte after he has been absent for the last few months due to an injury.
Let me start this little thing with a confession: I have been sitting here for days, staring at a blank page, not knowing what to write. Classic case of writer’s block. Which is quite ironic considering I have a hard time shutting up when it comes to one Ryan Lochte.
I had been hoping to write something about what I was expecting of Ryan’s return to the pool. But the honest answer is that I don’t know. It came early for sure, especially after the first reports that surfaced after Lochte’s injury predicted him to only start practice in the pool in February. And, now it is February and Ryan is set to swim his first meet after being forced to take a break.
Another, and maybe the main reason for the aforementioned “I don’t know” is that maybe no one knows; except for Ryan Lochte himself, his coach and his training partners at SwimMAC Carolina.
In a commentary a while back I used the word ‘unpredictable’ in connection with Ryan and I’m using it again right now.
Whatever we expect from Ryan Lochte, chances are he will step up and do anything but what we expected. If we think he’ll take it easy, he’ll probably end up swimming several events each day and he’ll go at them like he’s never been away in the first place. Swimming an IM after a knee injury is most likely not on the list of enjoyable things, but then again, we’re talking about Ryan Lochte. I would not even be surprised if he ends up swimming the 400m IM again later this season.
One thing is for sure though, it’s not going to be easy for Lochte. Conor Dwyer dominated in one of Lochte’s signature events, the 200m IM, during the Arena Grand Prix in Austin, while Ryan Murphy could, much like last season, give Lochte a run for his money in the 200m backstroke.
In the 100m backstroke, the field with Matt Grevers, Arkady Vyatchanin and Lochte’s teammate Nick Thoman is already pretty good and at the moment, there seems to be no way around Tom Shields in the 100m butterfly, an event that Lochte just added to his schedule last year ahead of the World Championships.
And, the list of top-class swimmers in both the 100m and 200m freestyle already read like an Olympic line-up with names such as Yannick Agnel, Nathan Adrian, Jimmy Feigen, Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones, Matt McLean and, once more even though he didn’t swim the 200m freestyle in Austin, Conor Dwyer.
I definitely know that I am looking forward to see Ryan swim again. Everyone mentioned above made his absence less critical, but I can’t deny that there was something missing while watching the past Grand Prix meets and who knows how the Duel in the Pool might have ended had Ryan been there.
So who knows what we can expect of Ryan Lochte? The main part is that we don’t have to wait another few months to actually see it.