Ryan Lochte must draw on painful past to make Olympic team

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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

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future

Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future