Ryan Lochte entered what they call the “decathlon of swimming” in competition Friday for the first time in 20 months.
It did not go well.
“I forgot how bad that event hurts,” Lochte told reporters at the Pro Swim Series in Austin, Texas. “Right after the fly [the first 100 meters], I was like, I’m already in pain.”
Lochte, the Olympic champion in the event, finished in third place. He clocked 4 minutes, 18.68 seconds, which was 2.6 seconds behind winner Josh Prenot. (full meet results here)
Lochte was 13.5 seconds slower on Friday than he was in the London Olympic final, which isn’t shocking given swimmers don’t train to peak in January.
Lochte was also seven seconds slower than in his last 400m IM in competition, at the 2013 Santa Clara Grand Prix. In fact, that was Lochte’s only 400m IM since the London Olympics before Friday.
Since 2012, Lochte has been off-and-on about whether he will try to swim the 400m IM at the 2016 Olympics. He said in interviews shortly after the London Olympics that he couldn’t do longer-distance events in 2016 because of his age (he is older than Michael Phelps and will turn 32 two days before the Opening Ceremony).
Those comments were reminiscent of Phelps’ comments after the 2008 Olympics, when he ruled out the 400m IM entirely. Of course, Phelps went back on his word and swam the 400m IM in London, placing fourth.
Lochte opted not to swim the 400m IM at the 2013 and 2014 U.S. Championships. Instead, he swam a different event on the same day as the 400m IM at both meets — the 100m butterfly, which he’s never competed at an Olympics and is a Phelps trademark event.
Now, Lochte is already saying he will “definitely” swim the 400m IM at the next Pro Swim Series event in Orlando in February (coincidentally, he aggravated a knee injury in Orlando last February, setting him up for an injury-hampered season, perhaps a big reason why he didn’t swim the 400m IM, and, at the Pan Pacific Championships in August, his worst performance at a major international meet since 2006).
Phelps, who is suspended into April, has said in his comeback that he will not swim the 400m IM (again).
“It’s probably the hardest event in swimming, besides the mile,” Lochte said of the 400m IM on Friday. “I just started training like a week and a half ago. This meet is like a training meet. … Getting my butt kicked is always a good thing.”
In other events Friday, Katie Ledecky won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.16, which was one second slower than her personal best set at the 2014 U.S. Championships. Again, not bad at all for a January meet. Ledecky also swept the 100m and 400m frees Thursday.
The world’s best all-around swimmer, Katinka Hosszu, was surprisingly off Friday. She finished third in the 400m IM, where she is the reigning World champion. U.S. Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel beat Hosszu by 3.22 seconds there.
Hosszu, a Hungarian, was also sixth in the 200m backstroke, won by Dominique Bouchard by .07 over Beisel.
Conor Dwyer, who isn’t swimming for North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Austin, won the men’s 200m free. Ryan Murphy beat Olympic 100m back champion Matt Grevers in the men’s 200m back.
Brazil’s Bruno Fratus outdueled the U.S.’ best sprinters — Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones and Jimmy Feigen — to win the 50m free.
The meet concludes Saturday.