Ryan Lochte, with Michael Phelps’ help, says he is back at his peak

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Ryan Lochte said he recently got serious in his comeback from two suspensions and rehab for alcohol addiction. He received pointers from Michael Phelps, according to TODAY.

“My times that I’m doing in practice are things that I’ve seen back when I was at my peak in 2012,” Lochte said in an interview that aired Wednesday morning.

Lochte, 35 and the most decorated active Olympian with 12 medals, is bidding to make his fifth Olympic team next year. He could become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904.

Lochte last competed at the U.S. Championships in early August, winning the 200m individual medley against a field that lacked the top Americans who swam at the July world championships.

Still, his time ranked him fourth in the country for the year. The top two at the Olympic trials in June qualify for the Tokyo Games. Lochte could also try the 200m freestyle, where the top six are likely go to Tokyo for the 4x200m free relay.

Lochte competed at nationals after revealing that he spent six weeks in rehab for alcohol addiction during a 14-month ban for a May 2018 IV infusion of an illegal amount of a legal substance.

In October 2018, Lochte’s attorney said that Lochte had been battling alcohol addiction for many years, and that it had become a destructive pattern for him. Those comments came after TMZ reported that Lochte was involved in an early morning California hotel incident.

When asked at nationals if he still drinks alcohol, Lochte said he had a glass of wine to celebrate the June birth of his daughter, Liv, but that he doesn’t care for it.

“If I was to keep going down this destructive path that I was going to end up … something tragic,” Lochte said on TODAY. “I don’t care to go out and party, to be the loud one anymore.”

Lochte, now a married father of two, said he went into nationals 22 pounds overweight.

“When my daughter was born, training kind of started slipping away,” he said. “So I went to fast food, and I started eating just everything.”

Lochte has since shed 21 of those pounds, according to his social media. Phelps similarly gained weight in his post-2012 retirement. Phelps also spent 45 days in an Arizona rehab facility after a 2014 arrest for driving under the influence that led to a six-month suspension.

“[Phelps has] been giving him pointers on how to make this comeback, in and out of the pool,” TODAY’s Craig Melvin said. “One of the things that Phelps told him he should be doing is leaning on his family for support.”

MORE: U.S. Olympic champion swimmer retires after doping ban

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Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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