NEW YORK — Diana Nyad swam a leisurely 80 yards in a lane next to the world’s greatest swimmer and felt compelled to stop during 48 continuous hours in a pool.
“How cool is this?” Nyad, in a pink cap, black suit and gray goggles, said to a couple hundred people outside the world’s largest Macy’s at Herald Square. “Swimming under the Empire State Building with Ryan Lochte?”
She went back to stroking away, 240 more yards with Lochte.
Lochte, the 11-time Olympic medalist, joined Nyad, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, as part of the “Nyad Swim for Relief” on Tuesday. Nyad, 64, set out to swim for 48 straight hours to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
“I love swimming, but 48 hours of swimming, I don’t know if I could do that,” Lochte said before an emcee mentioned event sponsor Tide. “I do one load of laundry, and I’m tired.
“What she did, that swim (Cuba to Florida in September), is amazing. I was glued to my TV, watching and saying, ‘Come on, keep going.'”
Lochte arrived before 3:45 on a 65-degree Tuesday afternoon. In a gray long-sleeve shirt and jeans, he bent down at the edge of the deck at a special 5-foot-high, 40-yard pool and shared a five-minute conversation with Nyad. She had just finished swimming laps with a boy named James, a Sandy survivor from Staten Island.
Registered lifeguards from the New York Health & Racquet Club, with whistles, are taking turns monitoring the laps.
“I was just trying to imagine what stroke you will do to go at my pace,” Nyad asked Lochte. “Is it a dog paddle? Is it an elementary backstroke?”
Lochte stuck to freestyle.
Nyad knows her international swimming. She name dropped Tunisian Ous Mellouli, the only swimmer to win Olympic and world titles in both the pool and open water.
“When I was having real bicep tendon problems, he told me to instead of keeping the standard elbow high, to come in real low with the shoulders,” she told Lochte. “It’s not as pretty, and it puts more strain on the bicep down here, but it really helps you.”
Nyad also talked to Lochte about an instance where she heard nine-time Olympic champion Mark Spitz speak in retirement. A coach asked Spitz to talk to his team.
“He says, ‘OK, how many of you are the first one at practice? And how many of you do the most yards? And he says, ‘You’re all losers,'” Nyad told Lochte. “What you want is quality. Save it for the meets.”
Lochte declined to answer questions about his move to Charlotte through the 2016 Olympics.
He told the Charlotte Observer on Monday that he moved from his decade-long base of Gainesville, Fla., to train with friend Cullen Jones and SwimMAC Carolina because “it’s time for a change.”
That change may mean different races.
“In my next swimming career, which started (Monday) morning, I want to train for some sprint events now,” Lochte, 29, told the newspaper. “I’m not done yet. I think there’s a lot more I can accomplish in the sport of swimming. I want to take my swimming to a new (level), and I want to bring it here to Charlotte.”
Richard Simmons and 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin are scheduled to swim with Nyad on Wednesday.
Olympic swimming community reacts to Diana Nyad’s record swim