By John Lohn
PHILADELPHIA, Penn., USA, July 8. HE doesn’t require an introduction, not with a resume that includes Olympic hardware and American-record status. In major competition, he has routinely produced primetime performances. But, even with his past accomplishments, Ryan Lochte is on the verge of raising his profile to greater heights.
When the World Championships in Montreal open in two weeks, Lochte will be considered a medal threat in a quartet of events, including three of the individual variety. Such has been his roll of the past few seasons, in particular the last year. What Lochte has achieved during the last 12 calendar flips is eye-popping, whether the accomplishments have arrived on the national stage or in an international environment.
Last summer, while competing at the Athens Olympics, Lochte walked away from the Games with a silver medal in the 200 individual medley and a gold medal as a member of the United States 800 freestyle relay. After clocking an impressive mark of 1:58.78 in the medley, Lochte cranked out a 1:47.52 split on the second leg of the relay, where the U.S. knocked off the Australian contingent.
As a complement, Lochte enjoyed a spectacular collegiate season, a campaign complete with NCAA titles in the 200 I.M. and 200 backstroke and American records in each discipline. If that stretch wasn’t enough, Lochte used the U.S. World Championship Trials to qualify in the 200 and 400 I.M. events and the 200 backstroke.
So, what can we expect from Lochte’s summer? Well, let’s take a look at each of the events the standout will contest.
200 Individual Medley: Barring one of the biggest upsets in swimming history, that being the toppling of Michael Phelps, Lochte is fighting for silver in the shorter I.M. As the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the event, he should be considered the favorite for the second step on the medal podium. Still, Lochte will receive a push from Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh.
400 Individual Medley: Ranked sixth in the world, Lochte should improve on the 4:16.83 mark he uncorked at the World Champs Trials. While Cseh heads into the event with the fastest time in the world and as the European record holder, Lochte is among a small group that will make a run for a medal. Among his challengers are Italy’s Alessio Boggiatto, who placed fourth in Athens, and Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli.
200 Backstroke: The event in which Lochte has made the biggest strides, he is the American-record holder in the 200-yard version of the distance dorsal. In finishing second to Aaron Peirsol at the U.S. Trials, Lochte posted the second-fastest time in the world (1:57.50). A time of that ilk would certainly have Lochte in the medal equation. He can expect competition from Austria’s Markus Rogan and Romania’s Razvan Florea, the silver and bronze medalists in Athens.
800 Freestyle Relay: This event is Lochte’s best chance at gold, as the United States will be favored, particularly with Ian Thorpe out of the mix for Australia. There’s a high probability that Lochte will reunite with Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay and Klete Keller, his teammates in the race from Athens.