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

Max Aaron retires from figure skating

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Max Aaron, a national champion and Skate America winner, has retired from competitive figure skating.

Aaron, 26, ends his career as the only Skate America men’s winner not to compete in an Olympics. He is one of three U.S. men’s champions in the last 55 years not to compete in an Olympics, along with Ryan Bradley and Rudy Galindo.

“Of course, becoming an Olympian, or having an Olympic medal would have been great to say, ride off on my white horse, but having the ability to say that I have no regrets in my entire career of figure skating, for me that is my gold medal,” Aaron said Thursday night.

Aaron, a former top USA Hockey developmental player, also figure skated growing up to help with his skating skills as one of the smaller players on his team.

He stopped playing hockey at 16 due to a broken vertebra but continued full-time with figure skating. By 2012, Aaron considered quitting figure skating after placing eighth at nationals (one year after being U.S. junior champion) and being told he wasn’t artistic enough.

But Aaron kept with it and completed a remarkable bounce back the next year, winning the U.S. title and setting himself up as a favorite to make the 2014 Olympic team.

But Aaron ended up third at the 2014 U.S. Championships. The two Sochi Olympic spots went to Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown.

Aaron continued, becoming the first U.S. man to win Skate America in six years in 2015 and topping the short program at the 2016 U.S. Championships before ultimately finishing second to Adam Rippon.

Aaron plummeted to ninth at the 2017 U.S. Championships, coming back from offseason hernia surgery, but returned to the Olympic team radar last fall with a personal-best free skate at Cup of China, including three landed quadruple jumps. He went into the 2018 U.S. Championships ranking third among American men for the season.

But Aaron was again ninth at nationals, missing the Olympic team. He was called on to compete at last month’s world championships as the third alternate after Rippon, Ross Miner and Brown all passed.

Aaron had stopped skating and instead was training for a triathlon. He went to worlds in Milan on two weeks of training and finished 11th, a result that helped the U.S. keep three men’s spots for 2019 Worlds. Nathan Chen won the world title, but Vincent Zhou was 14th. The U.S. needed its second man to be 12th or better to go along with Chen’s first place to ensure three spots next year. Aaron reportedly said at worlds that it may have been his last competition.

Aaron said he’s started a job with Merrill Lynch.

“It’s really been a great ride. I have no regrets,” he said. “That’s one thing that I always told myself, in sport, in life, I want to have no regrets, and I can honestly say, with the help from my coaches and friends, that I have no regrets in the sport.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Rippon among Olympians in Time 100

Martha, Bela Karolyi speak on Larry Nassar case (video)

Martha Karolyi, Bela Karolyi
NBC News
Leave a comment

Former USA Gymnastics national team coordinators Martha and Bela Karolyi said they knew nothing about Larry Nassar‘s alleged abuse in an interview that airs on an hourlong NBC News “Dateline” special Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

Star U.S. gymnasts, among more than 100 who said they were sexually abused by the convicted Nassar, said they were abused at the Karolyi’s ranch in Texas during national-team training camps.

“That’s awful, but I would say even if they have big names or they have no names, any child who was violated by Nassar, it’s a crime and it’s so sad,” Martha Karolyi told Savannah Guthrie in part of the interview that aired on TODAY on Friday.

How could the Karolyis not have known about the alleged abuses committed at their property?

“Yes, but if you couldn’t suspect anything, I heard during the testimonies that some of the parents were in therapy room with their own child and Larry Nassar was performing this — and the parent couldn’t see. How I could see?” Martha Karolyi said.

“The whole thing is just like an explosion, a bomb exploding, boom,” Bela Karolyi said.

Martha Karolyi led the national team for 15 years before retiring after the Rio Olympics. She told Guthrie that in “no way” did she suspect Nassar was sexually abusing athletes.

The Karolyis have been named as co-defendants in several civil lawsuits filed against Nassar and USA Gymnastics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Full transcript of McKayla Maroney’s first comments since Larry Nassar case