Ryan Lochte must draw on painful past to make Olympic team

Leave a comment

OMAHA — Ryan Lochte has fractured a shoulder falling out of a tree. He tore a meniscus break dancing. He tore an MCL and sprained an ACL landing on a curb after a fan ran into him.

He fractured his foot in a scooter accident, sprained an ankle chasing his Doberman, Carter, strained an MCL reaching for a cellphone in his car and has hurt himself skateboarding and been in a motorcycle accident.

“He’s always been a guy that lives on the edge a little bit,” said Gregg Troy, Lochte’s longtime coach at Florida. “He’s really adept at dealing with injury.”

But to have the injury occur inside the pool, in his first race at the Olympic Trials? That’s a new one for the 11-time Olympic medalist.

Lochte must now draw on his ability to swim through pain to make his fourth Olympic team this week. The world’s best swimmer four years ago, Lochte is no certainty to make the Rio Olympics.

“He’ll be dealing with some level of pain management through the meet now,” his coach, David Marsh, said.

By now you know Lochte pulled a groin in the breaststroke leg of his 400m individual medley preliminary heat here Sunday morning.

And he then finished third in the final eight hours later, failing to make the two-man U.S. team in the only event he won at the 2012 London Games.

Lochte, at age 31, is older than any swimmer from any nation who has ever raced the 400m IM at the Olympics, according to sports-reference.com. What they call the decathlon of swimming is not a seasoned man’s race.

Lochte said this two weeks after the London Olympics, when he swore off the 400m IM: “I’m getting older. My body’s getting older, so I can’t do those long events.”

Yet there he was Sunday night, with a 2.94-second lead after the first 200 meters. Lochte returned to the 400m IM in earnest this season and went into Trials as a favorite.

But few knew of his injury as he swam Sunday night.

Lochte and Marsh talked strategy in the afternoon. The groin problem would most impact him on the breaststroke, primarily a leg-based stroke.

“I thought about this morning, about scratching, but it’s the Olympic Trials,” Lochte said. “If I had a broken leg, I’d still go out there and swim.”

They adjusted his breaststroke kick in his final warm-up before the race. Lochte was on a massage table 20 minutes before he was introduced to a thunderous roar from the sold-out crowd.

Lochte slowed during that breaststroke leg, from 200 meters to 300 meters of the 400-meter race. He looked stuck in Jell-O as Chase Kalisz passed him with about 125 meters to go.

Finally, Jay Litherland went by Lochte in the final 25 meters, erasing a 3.35-second deficit halfway through the race.

“That hurt a little,” were Lochte’s first words to media after he left the pool deck and descended down a flight of stairs. “I couldn’t use my legs in breaststroke. I did everything I could in that race. It just wasn’t enough.”

Truth is, Lochte has such a history with groin flare-ups that Marsh before the final consulted Troy, his coach through 2013, for how he handled similar situations.

“That groin problem, he’s had that for years,” Troy said. “We went one whole summer with it before.”

Which summer was that?

“He’s had something every year,” Troy said. “It’s not unusual for him.”

Under Troy, Lochte won major international meet gold medals every summer from 2006 through 2013 (Olympics, World Championships, Pan Pacific Championships). Save 2007, when worlds were in the spring, but you get the point.

Lochte is used to swimming, and winning, through injury.

“He is somebody who will bounce back,” said Michael Phelps, who after finishing fourth in the 400m IM at the London Olympics went on to win six medals in six races. “He’s got a full plate and a full schedule this week, and I would assume he would use this as motivation to get going.”

Lochte’s slate the rest of the week:

200m freestyle — Monday and Tuesday
100m freestyle — Wednesday and Thursday
200m backstroke — Thursday and Friday
200m individual medley — Thursday and Friday
100m butterfly — Friday and Saturday

The best chance will come in the 200m freestyle, for two primary reasons. Lochte is seeded first in that race as the fastest American since 2014. The top six finishers will likely make the Olympic team as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay pool.

The other events are riskier.

Lochte has never raced the 100m free at an Olympics or world championships (but, again, the top six will likely make the Olympic team for the relay).

The 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley finals will be in the same session and are two of the deepest men’s events. The 200m back includes the 2012 Olympic champion Tyler Clary and Ryan Murphy, one of USA Swimming’s young stars.

Phelps looms in the 200m IM, as does Kalisz and Conor Dwyer, who made the team in the 400m free Sunday night.

Phelps is there again in the 100m butterfly, as is Tom Shields, who beat Phelps at the 2014 U.S. Championships.

Lochte didn’t give much away in speaking with the media for about two minutes Sunday night.

“Probably not making the team [in the 400m IM] affects his mental state more than the throbbing, if anything,” Marsh said.

Marsh regretted not pulling Lochte out of the 400m IM final, but said he was assured Lochte would not do extra damage by racing.

“And Ryan actually deals with pain better than most human begins,” Marsh said.

MORE: Phelps drops Olympic Trials event

U.S. boblsedders remembering Steve Holcomb

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The memories are impossible to ignore. Justin Olsen sees him in the start house. Elana Meyers Taylor hears him on her track walks. Mentions of his name bring some members of the team to tears, and others still can’t fully open up about how difficult moving on has been.

NBCOlymipcs.com: 2018 U.S. Olympic bobsled team

It’s been nine months since Steven Holcomb died.

USA Bobsled is not over it, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Holcomb was the best bobsledder in U.S. history, and he was supposed to be at these PyeongChang Olympics for what likely would have been the final races of his career. Instead, the Americans will head to the start house at the Alpensia Sliding Center on Sunday for the first bobsled races of these games and face the nearly impossible task of doing as well as he would have done.

This season has been one struggle after another for the Americans. Nerves have been frayed all year. Results have been far from what the U.S. wanted or envisioned. Getting a third men’s sled to PyeongChang was a challenge until the final possible moment, something that certainly would not have been the case if Holcomb was still driving.

Read the rest of the story and watch live streams by clicking here 

Mikaela Shiffrin opens up on slalom disappointment

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The day after an winning an Olympic gold in the women’s the giant slalom, Shiffrin was widely expected to defend her gold medal in the slalom.

Shiffrin, failed to do so, finishing in fourth position. In what she considered to be her favorite event, the American came up short by just eight one-hundredths of a second of winning the bronze. The American even admitted to vomiting before she took to the course. 

The American took to Twitter earlier this morning giving fans more detail about the race that’s been lingering on her mind, and the nerves that overcame her.

Shiffrin continues to detail in the tweets below that, though not the result she wanted, she was proud of herself for showcasing the passion and love that she has for the sport and for the Olympic Games.

An athlete who is held to the highest of standards, and when one Olympic gold medal might feel like a minute failure from someone who has been expected to dominated these Olympic Games, Shiffrin expressed the gratitude she feels to be a part of the 2018 Olympics and to compete alongside athletes, many of whom will walk away without any medal whatsoever.

Shiffrin continued:

Shiffrin did not participate in the super-G, which was astonishingly won by Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka. The dual-athlete wore Shiffrin’s skis en route to her own Olympic memory.

The American is expected to be competing next in the women’s downhill, where qualification begins on Feb. 21. Lindsey Vonn is also expected to be competing in the downhill.