Ryan Lochte on U.S. Open: ‘Probably my worst meet ever’

Ryan Lochte
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Ryan Lochte is mad, and that’s rare.

The 12-time Olympic medalist known for his goofy smile and laid-back attitude was ticked off about his performances in the pool at the U.S. Open, the first major meet in America since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports in mid-March (broadcast schedule here).

Lochte finished third in the 200m individual medley with a time 2:01.05 on Friday — well behind winner Chase Kalisz in 1:59.72. He was 26th in the 200m freestyle and 51st in the 100m backstroke. Lochte swam the 200m back on Saturday and dropped the 100m free. Times from all nine meet sites were combined to determine overall placement.

“This is probably going to go down as my worst meet that I’ve ever had,” he said by phone from Sarasota, Florida. “I do not like swimming this bad. When I get back (home), I’m going to start turning it up again.”

At 36, Lochte is taking aim at making a fifth U.S. Olympic team. He’s easily the oldest swimmer on deck, surrounded by youngsters who he jokes were in diapers when he won his first gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

Time is not on his side. Lochte figures he’s competed in just seven meets since 2016. He only resumed training about five weeks ago, his plans disrupted in part by closures and restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus. Future competitions are up in the air, depending on the pandemic. The U.S. Olympic Trials are next June, about a month before the rescheduled Tokyo Games.

“I need to be racing at least once a month with really good competitors,” he said. “I don’t want to lose that confidence.”

Lochte is eager to replace the debacle that was the 2016 Rio Olympics with better memories before calling it quits. He grabbed international headlines after claiming he and three teammates were robbed by armed men with police badges in Rio. Brazilian authorities denied Lochte’s version of events. Eventually, he apologized for lying about the incident that cost him sponsors and a 10-month suspension.

In 2018, he was suspended for 14 months after posting a photo of himself receiving a vitamin injection at a dosage over the allowable limit. The repeated hits to his good-guy image were incalculable.

“I feel like inside I want to prove everyone wrong,” he said. “I want to do it for myself. I guess this year is way more important than any I’ve ever had.”

Lochte has been going hard in practice, logging between 7,000-8,000 yards a day — more than he did ahead of the 2012 London Games.

“I don’t know if I’m mentally tired. I know I’m physically tired,” he said. “I love getting on those blocks and racing again.”

Dara Torres was the first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympics, including two different appearances eight years apart. She was 41 in 2008 when she won silver medals in all three of her events in Beijing. Torres’ daughter was 2 years old at the time of her mother’s last games.

Lochte’s family has expanded, too, since 2016, with wife Kayla, 3-year-old son Caiden and 1-year-old daughter Liv.

“It used to be me going off to the bars,” he said. “Now it’s me going home and chasing kids around and changing diapers, but I love it.”

Lochte is back with Gregg Troy, his old college coach at Florida who guided him throughout his long rivalry with Michael Phelps. Troy retired from leading the Gators two years ago, although he has remained in Gainesville, where Lochte and his wife are in the process of buying a house.

Lochte said he’s still in touch with Phelps, who retired after Rio and has three boys of his own now.

“He’s always good for giving me advice,” Lochte said.

Lochte looks around the pool deck at his young competitors and admits not knowing their names and who is the fastest.

“They all come up to me for questions because I’ve been in swimming forever,” he said. “I help out the younger generation. It’s still fun.”

Lochte still has his supporters, whether it’s his fans who know he’s always willing to accommodate their requests or those in the sport.

Jon Urbanchek, the 84-year-old retired Michigan coach, had a front-row seat for many of Lochte’s successes and failures.

“He’s a beautiful, very loving person. He admits he made some bad judgments,” Urbanchek said. “He deserves to have an honorable exit.”

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here with redactions.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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