Ryan Lochte is racing in Charlotte. Katie Ledecky is racing in Atlanta. Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin are training in Colorado.
The Olympic Trials are in six weeks, and the best U.S. swimmers are spread across the country.
An annual grand prix meet in Charlotte started Thursday, highlighted by the 11-time Olympic medalist Lochte, who resides in the Queen City.
Another meet in Atlanta begins Friday, with a field including the five-time 2015 World champion Ledecky.
Phelps was scheduled to compete in Atlanta but withdrew last week ahead of his baby boy being born.
Franklin signed up for neither meet and is believed to be training hard at home in Colorado, embarking on a blackout period for sponsorships as she focuses on Olympic Trials prep.
“We’re six weeks out of trials, and about another five weeks out of the Olympics, so everybody has dialed in now,” Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, told media Thursday. “This meet is probably the key window of time, about six weeks out, where, as an athlete and a coach, and kind of all the preparation comes together to make the adjustments. … So the information that will be gained from this weekend will be very, very important in terms of the preparation. And even as a standalone, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some tremendous swims.”
Lochte is entered in seven events from Friday through Sunday in Charlotte and said it will be his last-chance meet to determine what he swims at the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3.
The Charlotte meet finals are at 6 ET each night, with NBC Sports Live Extra coverage on Saturday and Sunday. USASwimming.org will have a live webcast all three nights.
Questions about Lochte’s event schedule center on whether he swims the grueling 400m individual medley at trials. That’s the only individual event Lochte won at the 2012 Olympics, but he contested the 400m IM at one meet in 2013 and 2014 combined.
He raced it a little more often since January 2015, has the fastest time in the U.S. this year and is contesting it again Friday.
The other questionable trials event for Lochte is the 200m backstroke, the only individual race he won at the 2008 Olympics. Lochte didn’t make the 2015 World Championships team in the 200m back and isn’t racing it this weekend.
Marsh marveled at Lochte’s individual-medley prowess in Thursday’s press conference, saying Lochte’s breaststroke is better than ever.
“Ryan has, I think, the best four strokes in the world, if you can put them all together,” Marsh said.
London Olympic champions Tyler Clary and Dana Vollmer are also competing in Charlotte.
The Atlanta meet also includes 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin and Olympic 100m free gold medalist Nathan Adrian.
But the headliner is Ledecky, who is entered in six events, including both individual medleys and the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles.
It was four years ago Friday that Ledecky stamped herself as an Olympic team favorite by winning the 800m freestyle in Charlotte with a personal best by more than four seconds.