Ryan Lochte Fighting Father Time in Chase For Fifth Olympic Bid

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Ryan Lochte Fighting Father Time in Chase For Fifth Olympic Bid

At no point in his stellar career, not as a rising talent or as a veteran seeking a final hurrah, has Ryan Lochte been known to produce midseason excellence. Training has always taken a toll on Lochte’s body, leaving him beaten and tired, and basically incapable of putting together a show of speed. It is a scenario that Lochte has long accepted.

So, when the 12-time Olympic medalist recently delivered a handful of mediocre performances at the Sarasota site of the U.S. Open, it was hardly a shock – or newsworthy. The results fit his longtime narrative. Nothing more. Nothing less. And then Lochte spoke about the weekend, his words lending an altogether different tenor to the topic.

“This is probably going to go down as the worst meet that I’ve ever had,” Lochte told the Associated Press. “I do not like swimming this bad. When I get back home, I’m going to start turning it up again.”

Had Lochte not voiced such displeasure with his U.S. Open efforts, the red flag would have remained still. Instead, it is now whipping in a wind of uncertainty. Clearly, Lochte was looking for much more from his U.S. Open appearance, and now a handful of questions must be posed. Was it simply an off meet for the Team USA veteran? Will he bounce back? Is age winning the swimoff with Lochte, a four-time Olympian?

The cliché says that only one individual in sports history is undefeated: Father Time. Now, Lochte is facing that opponent, and while he won’t be able to win, Lochte is intent on extending the matchup as long as he can. But as a 36-year-old, Lochte is aware that his margin for error is minimal in the pursuit of a fifth Olympic appearance. He is also aware of the young Americans seeking to bounce him from the Team USA roster.

What Lochte showed in Sarasota might not have been so much age prevailing as much as his training taking a toll and not allowing him to race at a speedy pace. If that scenario is indeed the case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Lochte struggled. He has ample time to work with coach Gregg Troy and get things fine-tuned ahead of  the United States Olympic Trials. If he needs more rest than in the past, together they can solve the equation.

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

The concern is that Lochte seemed to expect more from the meet, and the energy just wasn’t there. At his peak, as was the case with longtime rival Michael Phelps, Lochte could go into Trials at less-than 100 percent, and still claim a ticket to the Olympic Games. That cushion no longer exists, as Lochte isn’t the 1:54.00 world-record setter he was in 2011. And with foes such as Chase Kalisz, Carson Foster and Michael Andrew lingering in the 200 individual medley, Lochte’s best opportunity for a Tokyo invite, the safety net is further frayed. The 200 freestyle, with six berths available due to relay duty, is probably Lochte’s second-best chance.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Lochte noted that the racing he did in Sarasota needs to be complemented by additional meet action. Regardless of how much experience he has logged throughout his career, there is often a need to engage in competition. As future Hall of Fame coach David Marsh has said: “Iron sharpens iron.”

“I need to be racing at least once a month with really good competitors,” he said. “I don’t want to lose that confidence. I don’t know if I’m mentally tired. I know I’m physically tired. I love getting on those blocks and racing again.”

What the COVID-19 pandemic will mean for the domestic racing schedule in the months ahead remains to be seen. As was the case beginning last March, there is a chance that meets could be wiped from the slate. If the Coronavirus allows for racing to take place, specifically in the form of Pro Series meets, look for Lochte to participate. The meets will give him that racing edge he is seeking.

Lochte has been the first to admit that he wants a chance at redemption. He left the 2016 Olympic Games in poor form, the Rio gas station incident a black mark. Not long after, he was hit with a ban by USADA for receiving an IV infusion over the allowable limit. Obviously, Lochte would love to go out as a five-time Olympian, on his terms and in a good light. Really, it would be a fine tale, a highly decorated star earning that last chance, and in the face of an Olympic delay that will have asked him to hang on and fight Father Time for an additional year.

Until next summer’s Olympic Trials, there will not be a definitive answer concerning Lochte’s targets. If he is fitted with Team USA garb for Tokyo, he will have met his goal. If Lochte is not part of the traditional laser-light show on the final evening of Trials, it will be clear he came up short by his lofty measures.

“I feel like inside I want to prove everyone wrong,” he said. “I want to do it for myself. I guess this year is way more important than any I’ve ever had.”

The countdown is on.

1 comment

  1. Jim Venn

    God Bless. I’d love to see that. Speaking of fighting against time, please save MSU Swimming & Dive

    #battleforspartanswimanddive