Analysis by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 8. THOUGH he publicly made his intentions known about three months ago, Ryan Lochte’s arrival in Charlotte, N.C., this week has created a new media frenzy. To be sure, Lochte’s transfer from his longtime base at the University of Florida is big news and all eyes will be on Lochte as he makes the transition not only to a new coach and team, but to what he says will be a new event schedule.
In his interview with the Charlotte Observer, Lochte alluded that more short-distance races are in his future, continuing the belief that the 400 IM is but a distant memory. His success in the 100 fly at world championships, where he placed sixth in the final after qualifying first, likely gives him the motivation to pursue races 200 meters and shorter.
Will he be able to successfully make that transition in Charlotte? Below, I give a few pros and cons about this new training venture.
David Marsh is a top-notch sprint coach. If Lochte is going to pursue 100s more often, Marsh’s elite squad at SwimMAC Carolina is the place to go. Though Lochte has long had success at the domestic level in the 100 backstroke, he’s going to need Marsh’s guidance if he wants to legitimately make the 400 free relay team in 2016 (instead of pulling a Michael Phelps and assuming he’s an automatic selection) and will need the increase in strength work to find the fast-twitch fibers to compete internationally in the sprints.
He’ll train with more people his own age. Lochte is 29 years old now. Swimming with a bunch of college-age swimmers at Florida is not going to be motivating for him, especially since very few of them can match his speed and workout intensity. With former training partner Peter Vanderkaay enjoying retirement and Conor Dwyer now at North Baltimore, Lochte was right to consider a move to a place where his teammates all have the same responsibilities and daily duties. Plus, his BFF Cullen Jones is in Charlotte.
A change in location equals a rise in motivation toward Lochte’s fourth Olympics. Nine years is a long time at the top. Just ask Michael Phelps. Like many of his Olympic teammates, Lochte was likely feeling a bit run down after London, and even back then he toyed with the idea of moving to Los Angeles for a change in scenery. While that didn’t pan out, the plan must have stuck in his head. Now that he’s in new surroundings, the excitement level is probably high again, and we can bet on a re-energized Lochte through the next three years.
Leaving Gregg Troy. Ryan Lochte and Gregg Troy have enjoyed one of the most lucrative swimmer/coach partnerships in this history of swimming. Since arriving at Gainesville, Lochte has moved from just another man behind Phelps to Olympic champion and world record holder. Obviously, the two know each other very well and I don’t think any animosity existed between them that caused Lochte to want to leave. Moving to a new team means Lochte will need some time to adjust to a new coach’s language, training style and methods. Granted, Lochte and Marsh have known each other for a long time, but this is a major change in their relationship. Hopefully, the two will develop a similar shorthand that Lochte and Troy enjoyed for nearly 10 years.
No IM training partner. Even though he seems to be giving up the 400 IM, Lochte shouldn’t turn away from the 200 IM, and even though he is Ryan Lochte, he still has to put in the time to stay at the top of the 200 IM, especially with rivals foreign and domestic right on his heels. SwimMAC’s elite team doesn’t have a 200 IMer, which can hurt Lochte on the days he’s focusing on IM work. Quite possibly, he and Marsh can make it work.
Bottom line: With very little working against him, it’s clear Lochte’s move to Charlotte is a positive one. And he made it at the right time. Though the 2014 Pan Pacific championships is an important meet, it’s not the Olympics or world championships, and any stumbles Lochte makes in the next year can be fixed in time for the 2015 world championships.