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Column by Erik Boal
PALO ALTO, California, August 4. AFTER 18 races at the recent FINA World Championships and four more on the first two days of the USA Swimming Long Course Nationals, Daytona Beach Swim Club's Ryan Lochte had finally reached his competitive limit Wednesday.
The most prominent four-letter word in Lochte's vocabulary following a third-place finish in the 100 backstroke final wasn't "Jeah" but instead "rest."
"I'm running on ‘E' right now and my coach knows it," Lochte said. "To swim at the level I did 18 times at Worlds, which is such a different environment than this, it's hard to get refocused. I got a best time in the breaststroke (Tuesday with a 22nd-place effort of 1:02.30) and my backstroke was OK, but I'm going to take the rest of the meet off and enjoy my birthday and just relax."
Lochte celebrated his 27th birthday following Wednesday's finals at a nearby Cheesecake Factory, then decided to devote the remainder of the week to practice instead of competition to prepare for a training camp next week in Colorado.
"I didn't know traveling across the world and getting right back in the pool would have affected me as much as it did," Lochte said. "I did everything I could (in the backstroke), but that's all I had."
Despite his performance, Lochte didn't rule out adding the 100 backstroke to his already challenging program for 2012 with the possibility of matching or exceeding Michael Phelps' eight gold medals from the Beijing Olympics.
"I don't mind it. I'd definitely be interested (in adding the 100 back)," Lochte said. "Right now, I don't know what's going to be on my plate … At Olympic Trials, I want to swim as many events as I possibly can because I just love racing.
"I'm not thinking about doing something nobody else has done before, I just want to race. After I sit down and look at the schedule, then I'll see what fits and what doesn't."
Swim-offs suit them well
After winning a swim-off just to get into the 100 breaststroke final June 25 at the EDF Paris Open, Tucson Ford's Annie Chandler went on to win the title in a lifetime-best 1:07.81, which ranks her third among Americans this year behind Trojan Swim Club's Rebecca Soni (1:04.91) and Jessica Hardy (1:05.90).
Chandler didn't need to survive such a scenario in Thursday's prelims, posting the fastest qualifying time for the 100 breaststroke finals at 1:08.29.
But there were some anxious moments for Chandler watching boyfriend Matt Grevers survive a swim-off in the 50 freestyle against Stanford's Alexander Coville.
After clocking 22.56 in the prelims, Grevers delivered a 22.36 in the swim-off, edging Coville (22.49). Although he'll swim in lane 10 in the championship heat, Grevers' swim-off effort was a season-best, elevating him into the top 35 in the world this year, along with fellow finalists Nathan Adrian of California Aquatics, Rose Bowl's Jason Lezak, SwimMAC's Josh Schneider and Longhorn's Jimmy Feigen.
"I know I can still go faster," Grevers said. "(After the swim-off) I know I'm capable of doing it."
Beisel keeps plugging along
Following a gold medal in the 400 individual medley and fifth-place finish in the 200 backstroke in Shanghai, Bluefish Swim Club's Elizabeth Beisel hasn't backed off this week, taking on one of the most difficult programs of any female swimmer competing at Stanford.
Beisel won the 200 individual medley and placed third in the 400 freestyle Tuesday, was sixth in the 100 backstroke and 20th in the 200 freestyle Wednesday and posted the fastest prelim time Thursday in the 400 individual medley at 4:39.58.
"As you can tell, it's going to be another long week," Beisel said. "I think the entire national team (that is competing at Stanford) has been up at 4 a.m. this week. But it's about getting as much experience in as many different events as possible."
Beisel is attempting to follow the performance of California Aquatics' Dana Vollmer in the 100 butterfly with a sweep of the World Championships gold medal and national title.
Since Trojan Swim Club's Rebecca Soni and North Baltimore Aquatics' Michael Phelps aren't competing this week at Stanford, Missy Franklin is not entered in the 200 backstroke and Ryan Lochte has decided not to race the remainder of the week, Beisel will have the last opportunity this week to pull off the World-national title double.
"It was definitely a good time for me (in the 200 IM), especially coming off my 400 IM at Worlds," Beisel said. "That turned out well, so I'm hoping I can do the same (in the 400 IM)."